Automating Oreos

Robots have been splitting Oreo cookies for years. But can they split them precisely in half, getting equal amounts of creme on each of the wafers that makes up the iconic sandwich cookie?

Nope. In fact, scientists at MIT have, with the help of a robot, determined that it is impossible to split the creme down the middle. It will always mostly stick to one of the wafers.

This tells us something new and exciting about fluid dynamics. The level of stress required to split a liquid — which is technically what the filling of an Oreo is — can be tested with a rheometer. Turns out that no speed of twisting and no level of stress is sufficient to split an Oreo cookie.

You can make your own Oreometer with instructions found at Github. If you’re not in the mood or you don’t have a 3-D printer handy, you can watch a video of the process at Gizmodo.

Why Oreos?

Why not? The researchers looked at Oreos primarily because they figured people could relate to the cookies and would understand better than if they used other kinds of yield stress fluids like cement or lava.

But they were surprised that they couldn’t split the creme down the middle. Other fluids they tested would break in the center. They speculate that heating the cookie might change things, but using different types and flavors of Oreos didn’t make any difference.

One thing they figured out: Oreo fillings could probably be 3-D printed.

The filling is currently extruded onto the wafers at high speed by machine. 3-D printing probably wouldn’t be a game changer, unless there were home-use cartridges allowing people to print their own custom sandwich cookies

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