In a study published in Science Advances, researchers describe a new kind of ceramic sponge that can be manufactured quickly and economically, with none of the fragility that comes with a typical consumer ceramic (like bathroom tile or ceramic unicorns). When you squeeze the ceramic, instead of staying rigid or breaking, it squishes down and then rebounds back to something resembling its original form. The engineers made the sponge out of a few different ceramic materials, including titanium dioxide and zirconium dioxide. Other bendable, fireproof ceramics have been made before, but those were more like tissue paper than cotton balls.
The sponge’s airiness is suggested to have other benefits as well. For example, the titanium dioxide ceramic sponge can hold up to 50 times its weight in water. It can reportedly clean that water as well, reacting with sunlight to remove particles. In some modern water filtration technology, titanium dioxide removes contaminants from water in its powdered form, which is hard to reuse. But in the new sponge form, the compound can still break down an artificial dye in water after just 15 min under a light. After treatment, clean water can be wrung out, and the sponge can be used again.
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