In a giant leap for humanity, we are one step closer to having pasta and cheese on the moon.
Scientists at Washington State University have announced that they have developed a way to triple the shelf life of packaged foods using ready-to-eat pasta and cheese as the basis of their experiment. Currently, food-safe plastic packaging can safely store food at room temperature for up to one year. With this new advancement in technology, pasta and cheese can be kept animated for three years. Taste testers reported that it tasted as good as freshly prepared.
Before packing, the food is sterilized in a thermal sterilization chamber using a microwave oven. Just like with your microwave at home, food cannot be packed in any metal . However, metal is the most effective material for food preservation, creating a strong barrier through which oxygen and other gases cannot pass. Adding a thin layer of metal oxide to plastic wrap significantly took the time it took to pass gases through food packaging, but although this technology had existed for almost a decade, it was useless as the metal cracked during startup through the microwave sterilization process. ,
The new packaging covers the metal oxide with micro thin layers of various forms of plastic. Each has a different purpose: some provide mechanical strength and others are a good barrier against external particles. These layers help prevent microscopic cracks that would develop during the sterilization process.
Scientists are currently working with the US military to apply this technology to ready-to-eat meals. Next step: interval. NASA requires all its food to have a five-year shelf life. WSU scientists are currently aging more packets of pasta and cheese in a 100-degree Fahrenheit incubator, which speeds up the deterioration process. Nine months in an incubator equals nine months at room (or space) temperature.
"NASA knows about our work, but it's only now that we get to talking to them with a proven product," says Sham Sablani, the scientist who leads the WSU team. "We hope to develop a way to test these products at the International Space Station in the future to show that food is safe after long-term storage."
Scientists have not revealed when this new technology will be available to the general public to use to store its bunkers of fortune. But at least tonight, humanity can sleep soundly knowing that we will still eat poppy and cheese at the end of the day.