Theses Doctoral

Digital Cuisine: Food Printing and Laser Cooking

Blutinger, Jonathan David

This work presents a new digital cooking process that utilizes heat from lasers to cookfood products. Unlike conventional cooking appliances, which heat an entire area by some uniform amount, lasers are unique in that they provide precision directional heating, they have a small form factor, and they are highly controllable using software. Lasers—as a cooking appliance—are of particular interest since they have a heating resolution that is on the same order of magnitude as the deposition path of a 3D food printer. While food printing is great for customized meal creation, we can print foods to millimeter resolution but we lack the ability to cook at this same resolution.

Here, I primarily focus on the characterization of three different types of lasers: (1) a blue laser operating at 445 nm, (2) a near-infrared (NIR) laser operating at 980 nm, and (3) a mid-infrared (MIR) laser operating at 10.6 µm. Initial cooking apparatuses used a set of mirror galvanometers to direct visible blue light for cooking, then future iterations relied on the movement of a 3-axis gantry. Both blue and NIR lasers are diode lasers that can be mounted on a machine and the MIR laser is a standalone CO₂ gas laser. I characterize the heating behavior of the aforementioned lasers using dough, salmon, and chicken as model food systems. Different modes of cooking can be achieved by changing the wavelength of the light: infrared (IR) lasers are more well-suited for non-enzymatic browning and blue lasers are best for subsurface cooking (i.e. starch gelatinization of dough, protein denaturation of salmon and chicken).

Precision “pulsed heating” with lasers also allows one to achieve food safe temperatures with greater accuracy and reduces overcooking, which leads to more moist food samples. Laser-baked dough can also achieve starch gelatinization. Food safe temperatures and browning can be achieved in dough, salmon, and chicken. Lastly, color development—as a result of laser exposure—is similar to conventionally cooked foods.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Lipson, Hod
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 9, 2022