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NEWS CRUNCH
Taiwan-made sponge goes Green, the Green-Tech SpongeBob absorbs oil only

Courtesy photo: Professor Nyan-Hwa Tai and his students: Bing-Yan Xie (doctorate candidate), Jun-Zhang Huan and Ming-Shen Chien.

A team lead by Professor Nyan-Hwa Tai of the Department of Materials Engineering at National Tsinghua University recently invented a sponge that absorbs only oil won first place at the TECO "Green Tech" International Creative Contest.

Professor Nyan-Hwa Tai expressed that he jointly developed the sponge with a PhD student, Xie Bingyan, a master's student, Huang Junzhang and an undergraduate, Jian Mingshen. The sponge can instantly absorb more than 90 times the weight of engine oil. This technology can be used when a ship capsizes at sea as it is able to absorb oil spill in a short amount of time to prevent environmental pollution.

Professor Nyan-Hwa Tai indicates that this magic sponge is made using sponge that is commercially available. The sponge is then coated with hydrophobic graphene - the capillarity of the sponge structure would instantly absorbs the oil and allow the water to remain where it is. Also, due to differing shapes, sizes and porosity, the sponge is able to absorb oil of different viscosity.

He also stated that the production cost of a sponge is inexpensive. Using current laboratory equipment, the rough estimate of a sponge with a length of 30cm by width of 10am by height of 10 cm, costs about NT$20-30 (US$0.60-0.90). If we invest through mass production, the production cost would be even lower. I would like to develop products that absorb slick oil and face oil in the near future.

In addition, Professor Tai mentioned the team decided to donate NT$100,000 of the $NT400, 000 prize money from the TECO "Green Tech" International Creative Competition, in order to thank the support of the school and to alleviate the financial burden of lower-income Tsinghua students to inspire them to work harder.

Xie Bingyan, Material Engineering PhD student said that it was due to the school providing facilities, space and resources that they are able to carry out the experiments and gain success. Professor Tai suggested donating a portion of the prize money to the school and the team agreed in unison that it was meaningful. "It feels good to be able to return the appreciation."

Source: Liberty Times Net, Taiwan
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