In a move that could be considered “one step closer to Star Trek”, MIT has developed a machine that not only creates dishes on demand, but recycles the materials from them after the meal into new dinnerware.
Wired: MIT Media Lab’s Counter Intelligence Group, which develops innovative kitchen designs, has created a machine that makes dishes on demand and recycles them after diners have finished a meal. The dishes are made from food-grade, nontoxic acrylic wafers, which are shaped into cups, bowls and plates when heated, then resume their original wafer shape when they are reheated and pressed.
Designed by MIT grad student Leonardo Bonanni, the DishMaker frees space in dish cabinets and reduces landfill trash. It also uses less energy to recycle dishes than factories use to make them. And, because the machine can produce up to 150 items, a dinner host would never be short of table settings when unexpected guests arrive: Cooks can select the number of place settings needed using a simple push-button control panel. The prototype DishMaker is the size of a standard dishwasher, and uses the heating element of a toaster oven to shape the items. To recycle the dishes, it heats them to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit to soften the acrylic, then a press restores them to wafers for easy stacking.
The machine holds 150 acrylic wafers and can produce a dish every 90 seconds. The wafers produce plates that are only 6 inches in diameter, the size of an average salad or dessert plate, but the machine can be adapted to use larger wafers.