Bright young minds put 'bio-homes' in the spotlight with eco-friendly inventions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am

Ultrasonic dishwashers and wind-catching devices were among eco-friendly innovations young inventors from a university pitched to an international audience at the Hong Kong Houseware Fair yesterday.

On the first day of the fair, 30 third-year engineering majors at Polytechnic University showcased more than 10 houseware inventions aimed at cutting energy usage in households.

The fair is part of the university's three-year 'bio-home' project, which cost HK$1.3 million and had commercial sponsors. It allowed students to turn their invention ideas into reality and market the products to buyers for mass production.

'Bio-homes are the future and the concept easily catches on,' said Alan Lau Kin-tak, associate professor of mechanical engineering and the project's co-ordinator.

'We want to encourage people to save energy at home, since everything starts from home.'

The result was an array of innovations, including a rubbish bin that compresses trash, and a filter that recycles used tap water for flushing toilets. The students have already applied for patents for their inventions and are awaiting buyers.

A fair highlight was 'sonic wash', a dishwasher that blasts high-frequency sound waves into water to clean dishes, similar to what the medical and industrial industries use for sterilisation. The invention halves the water consumption of conventional dishwashers and cuts energy usage by 90 per cent every time an average household of four cleans their dishes, the inventors said.

'Not only is our product environmentally friendly, it also saves energy and water, and clears away most germs, including E coli and salmonella,' said Adela Tsang Chi-ching, co-inventor of the product.

Another invention, the tubular 'wind catcher', is intended to cut air-conditioning costs by using outside air to create a breeze in a room. It is geared to the local market, inventor Mandy Chan Yuen-shan said.

The houseware fair is the largest of its kind in Asia and attracted 2,218 exhibitors, 165 fewer than last year.

Manufacturer Joe Jong Chee-wai, a repeated buyer at the fair, observed that attendance had dropped by 'at least one-third' this year.