Engineers from New York's Columbia University are creating a fully autonomous robotic chef capable of cooking food with lasers.

Members of Columbia University’s so-called “Digital Food” team used 3D-printed chicken as the food to demonstrate how lasers could be used for autonomous cooking.

As such, the team exposed the chicken to both blue light (445 nm) and infrared light (980 nm and 10.6 μm) and determined that the laser-prepared chicken shrunk 50% less than traditionally cooked chicken, while maintaining roughly double the moisture typically lost with traditional cooking.

An illustration of a digital cooking appliance. Source: Columbia UniversityAn illustration of a digital cooking appliance. Source: Columbia University

In terms of flavor, the team of Columbia engineers noted that the study's two blind taste-testers preferred laser-cooked meat over the traditionally cooked chicken.

Although the technology is promising, the researchers note that a sustainable ecosystem for supporting it does not yet exist.

"What we still don't have is what we call ‘Food CAD,’ sort of the Photoshop of food. We need a high level software that enables people who are not programmers or software developers to design the foods they want. And then we need a place where people can share digital recipes, like we share music."

The research is detailed in the study, Precision cooking for printed foods via multiwavelength lasers, which is published in the journal npj Science of Food.

Watch how the technology might work in the accompanying video that appears courtesy of Columbia University.

To contact the author of this article, email