Ever since I first saw secretly evil superhero Homelander cut through anything and everyone with laser beam eyes, I’ve thought it’d sure be handy to have a pair of laser peepers to clean up weeds around the house or cook a quick meal.
While I (unfortunately ) won’t be able to shoot lasers from my eyes anytime soon, things are looking up in the laser cooking department thanks to a recent research project by a group of students a Columbia University. In a recent article for npj Science of Food program for Nature, the group describes the project in which they print and cook raw 3D printed chicken using lasers.
The group started by pureeing a chicken breast and then extruded the chicken paste into squares using a 3D printer. From there, they used different lasers to conduct various trials that varied parameters with three different lasers: A 5–10 W blue diode laser (445 nm) as primary heating source, and comparative tests done with an Near Infrared (NIR) laser (980 nm), NIR laser (10.6 μm).
From the explainer video:
“By tuning parameters such as circle diameter, circle density, path length, randomness, and laser speed, you can optimize the distribution of energy that hits the surface of the food, but at higher resolution than conventional heating methods.”
The group also experimented cooking in highly-precise cooking patterns (including a checkerboard pattern) to see how it compared with traditional cooking. The takeaway? Laser cooking might make better food than traditional cooking methods like broiling.
“Compared to oven broiling, we found that laser cooked foods are more moist and shrink less after heating,” concluded the group.
Interestingly, the group also found that lasers can cook food wrapped in plastic. The idea of being to cook through packaging opens up potential new avenues for offering consumers no-contact food in foodservice scenarios, something that’s no doubt of interest in these pandemic-stricken times.
While some like SavorEat are building print-and-cook systems, this is the first time I’ve seen a cooking system which uses lasers. The high-fidelity control of laser cooking is reminiscent of the solid-state cooking systems slowly making their way to market, only instead of using radio waves they shoot highly directed beams of light.
You can read the full research paper here and watch the explainer video below: