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The weird and wonderful on show in Geneva

The air horn can produce a noise up to 108 decibels Keystone

A self-making bed, bamboo T-shirts, water that cleans without detergent and Islamic ecstasy are all hoping to strike it rich at the 36th Geneva inventors' fair.

This content was published on April 3, 2008 - 08:06

These are just a few of the 1,000 extraordinary – and perhaps useful – products on display at the annual event, which runs until Sunday and claims to be the world's leading invention exhibition.

"This is the biggest fair of its kind in the world and also one of the most serious – every invention presented has to be protected by intellectual property rights and may only be exhibited in Geneva once," Gérard Sermier, chief spokesman of the fair, told swissinfo.

Commercial success is foremost in the minds of the 700 exhibitors attempting to catch the eye of the general public, distributors and company "talent scouts" from around the world. Last year licences were negotiated to the tune of $40 million (SFr40.5 million).

"Companies are now looking for ideas outside their walls. The rhythm of innovation is accelerating and inciting companies to buy ready-made solutions rather than developing them themselves," commented Jean-Luc Vincent, president and founder of the event.

And a growing number of investors are looking to put their money into new inventions rather than the stock markets, Vincent added.

Among the 45 countries on show, those best represented are Russia and Iran, which together brought around 190 exhibitors.

"Iran has grasped the fact that its oil resources are not inexhaustible and it has to do something about it. They are one of the emerging nations here at the fair as the exhibitors are well supported by their government," the spokesman said.

Going green

While it is difficult to make out any noticeable trends among the many gadgets and appliances on show, this year features a raft of medical and environmentally friendly inventions, Sermier added.

"Twenty years ago we didn't have a single product relating to sustainable development or ecology and here there are dozens," he said.

One invention making a splash at the exhibition is a neutralised electrolysed water treatment system for the home. Using boron-doped diamond electrodes to produce sterile electrolysed water, Swiss inventor Hanspeter Steffen hopes to save water and reduce the need for detergents.

"This technology quite simply transforms clean water into a very powerful disinfecting agent and effective cleaning solution," explained Steffen.

Bamboo is also a popular product at this year's fair. Michel Sebas from Martinique has started producing T-shirts made out of the fibres of the fast-growing plant.

"It's four-times softer than cotton, anti-UV, antibacterial and breathable, carrying away perspiration more easily," said Sebas. "Slowly Man is discovering the various properties of plant fibres."

Shahril Anuar Bahari, a Malaysian wood scientist, was also proudly showing off his bamboo wood panels.

"Bamboo contains the highest amount of lignin [natural bonding element] compared with other plants," said Bahari, explaining that this eliminates the need for synthetic glues and makes it much cheaper to use.

One gadget catching the eyes of journalists, if not yet distributors, was a specially designed pillow for people with snoring or sleeping problems. While just a few stands away, Swiss inventor Frédéric Moret demonstrated his silent alarm clock, a device which emits a high frequency signal to a ring or bracelet which then vibrates.

And for anyone wanting to stay awake there is Islamic ecstasy, a herbal drink developed by Shahin Zavaraghi from Iran, made from a secret recipe of 20 different herb essences.

"It increases your energy and acts up to 12 hours as an anti-depressant," he explained.

Other attention-grabbing devices include artificial nose hair to prevent allergies, a case that turns into a desk and a vehicle powered by a horse running on a treadmill.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley in Geneva

Geneva Inventions Fair

The fair runs from April 2-6. According to organisers, a quarter of the 700 exhibitors are private inventors and researchers while the rest are companies, research institutes and universities.

Attendance at previous fairs suggests that more than half the 65,000 visitors over the five days will be industrialists, distributors and businessmen.

68% of exhibitors come from Europe, 29% from Asia and 3% from other continents. 8% of them are Swiss.

The countries best represented this year after Russia and Iran are: Romania, France, Malaysia, China, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Croatia, South Korea, Germany, Moldova, Britain and Italy.

Global turnover from the exhibition is estimated at $40 million (SFr40.5 million). An invention may only be exhibited in Geneva once and must be protected by intellectual property rights.

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