China's economic boom has brought with it a craze for new inventions. Television shows and blogs feature the ideas of amateur inventors from across the vast country.
One such inventor: Tang Zhenping from the village of Banjiehe, in the Tongzhou district of Beijing. The 55-year-old has come up with his own design for an electric vehicle (EV). According to Tang the EV can reach speeds of up to 45 mph.
"It was a longtime dream come true," Tang told the China Daily newspaper. "I had wanted to create a car since high school."
According to the newspaper, the EV's generator derives power from inertia when the car starts or stops, while a fan generates power as it rotates in the air currents when running at high speeds. The EV also features a pair of "shark fins" that Tang said were inspired by old jets.
Tang plans to bring his EV to a major manufacturer to develop, and officials for a province in Inner Mongolia have already expressed an interest.
Evidence for the invention craze in China can be seen in the proliferation of interest in the media. China Central Television has been running a show for two years called "I Love Inventions," which takes new ideas and tries to marry the inventors with businesses who might be able to help them develop it. A recent invention that got play on the program was for an automated wheelchair that can climb stairs.
In spite of the media interest, Chinese inventors have not always had an easy time of it. The patent registration system in China does not provide the same protection as international copyright laws and many inventors face having their ideas stolen from them.
As a result, some of the new breed of innovators have been discouraged and, according statistics from the China Association of Inventions, in 2010 40.6 percent of patents were applied for by amateurs — a 10 percent drop from 2005.
"The patent registration system in China is not as complete as copyright protection," Yang Yifan, a Beijing-based lawyer who specializes in intellectual property rights cases, told China Daily. "Many grassroots inventors are unaware of the legal pitfalls and don't apply for patents in time, and if they do apply, their inventions may be worded so badly it could cause trouble later."
Not all amateurs have been discouraged, however. An inventor, who has earned national attention for his sometimes rather eccentric ideas, is Lin Bin, a shop owner in the Guangdong province.
Lin has invented a method for making cotton candy using a computer hard drive, as well as a system to disinfect air which he came up in response to the SARS epidemic of 2002.
The 39-year-old's technical wizardry has earned him the title "Geek Mr Lin." In keeping with the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention, Lin said he came up with the cotton candy machine for his 10-year-old daughter, who was always bugging him to buy cotton candy for her on visits to the local park.
* Paul Willis, EarthTechling