Minor planet named after teen inventor

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2007, 12:00am

For the second time in three years, a planet has been named after a young inventor from the city - a rare honour.

The minor planet 23165 was renamed Kakinchan last month after Tom Chan Ka-kin, 18, who is studying pharmacy at Chinese University, in recognition of a plastics substitute that he invented while a student at high school and entered in a US science fair in May.

Mr Chan won first place and best-of-category awards in the Intel international science and engineering fair with his project 'Miracle Bioplastics from Cellulose Waste', producing a transparent and waterproof material that has all the properties of plastic, but is biodegradable.

To honour his achievement, the International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for naming planets and celestial objects, named the planet after him.

Planet Kakinchan measures 3km to 6.5km in diameter and is in a group of minor planets between Jupiter and Mars.

Minor planets are bodies orbiting the Sun that are larger than meteoroids, but smaller than major planets.

Jimmy Wong Kam-yiu, director of the New Generation Cultural Association Science Innovation Centre, a part-government-funded charitable centre for promoting science and creativity education, accompanied Mr Chan to the science fair in New Mexico.

He said the inventor was working hard to prepare for his first-year university examinations this week, but would attend a press conference and commendation ceremony tomorrow in Causeway Bay.

He said Mr Chan's bioplastic invention was a cellulose extracted from leaves and sawdust.

'It's a revolutionary idea, the cost is not high and the raw material is free,' Dr Wong said. 'Some manufacturers have contacted us.'

In 2004, another teen inventor from the city, Chan Yik-hei, then 14, had the minor planet 20780 named after him. Yik-hei was put forward after he came second in the engineering category of the Intel competition in 2005 with his project 'Total Equip', an intelligent robot developed for domestic security.