Cheddar Meets Its Match

A new way to cut the cheese from America's dairy land.

By Zach Zorich
May 30, 2004 5:00 AMNov 12, 2019 6:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Leave it to a scientist in Wisconsin, America’s leading dairy state, to come up with a new way to cut cheese. Xiaochun Li, a mechanical engineer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, built a novel chopper around a laser that is so accurate it can slice pieces no thicker than a human hair, about 1/300 of an inch. “At first I used a traditional laser and it burned the cheese, so I almost gave up,” he says. “Then I thought about the excimer laser used in eye surgery.” This type of laser, which fires pulses that last only one-billionth of a second, creates a barrage of molecular fissures while leaving the surrounding material intact. “High energy means it breaks the bonds quickly,” Li says. “It’s a very clean cut.”

Li believes his machine is safer and more sanitary than conventional blades and could improve efficiency by eliminating tearing and sticking. The laser slicer can also make food more fun, as he has demonstrated: Guided by computer design software, it can carve cartoon shapes in American cheese.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.