Self-folding pasta could significantly cut the cost and carbon footprint of shipping dried pasta - a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S.

Self-folding pasta could significantly cut the cost and carbon footprint of shipping dried pasta - a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S.

Credit: Courtesy of Wen Wang

Two Surprising Ways to Cut Carbon Emissions

June 7, 2017

President Trump has clearly signaled that his administration won't make an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but one initiative he proposed this week might do just that. And other cuts could come from unexpected places.

1. Modernizing air traffic control: On Monday, Trump endorsed the idea of privatizing air traffic control, but many of his comments focused on modernizing air traffic control - specifically, switching from radar to NextGen GPS systems. That could have an enormous impact on the carbon footprint of the commercial airline industry, potentially reducing emissions by 30-40 percent. Radar can be "glitchy," according to Cape Air's Director of Sustainability, Jim Wolf. With airplanes moving hundreds of miles per hour, carrying dozens of people, that means air traffic controllers have to build in huge safety margins, sometimes routing planes more than a hundred miles out of the way. GPS knows where a plane is at all times, so routes can be (a lot) more efficient.

2. Self-folding pasta: Americans spend billions of dollars on dried pasta each year, but a typical box of macaroni is two-thirds air, not food. That means consumers are paying to ship a lot of nothing. Researchers at MIT looking for a way to cut out those excess shipping costs hit on the idea of self-folding pasta. Using a 3D printer, they lay down a layer of gelatin, then print designs with cellulose on top. Those flat sheets can be shipped more efficiently. Then, when the pasta is dropped into water, the gelatin expands, but the cellulose holds fast and pulls the pasta into a folded shape - spiral, flower, you name it. The fact that the gelatin comes from carbon-intensive pigs could eat into the emissions savings in the shipping department, but the team is now working with a chick pea pasta company to see if that protein (with a carbon footprint closer to traditional pasta) will work. They say self-folding pasta could be in stores in as little as five years.


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