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Inventor prepares big escape

(China Daily)

08:20, August 23, 2011

SHANGHAI - For the past six months, 22-year-old Liu Feng has been repeating the same action every day and night: jumping off a seven-story building.

The graduate from Nanjing College of Information Technology is not trying to kill himself. Instead, he is testing one of his new inventions that may save lives.

The invention is a high-rise escape device that may soon be put into production. Though not the first gadget to allow people to escape from burning skyscrapers Batman-style, it will be the most affordable - it is expected to be priced at about 200 yuan ($31).

"I want to make it possible for ordinary people to have something that can save their lives," said Liu, whose idea came after the deadly fire that engulfed a 28-story building and left 58 people dead in November in Shanghai.

"I learned from the news that most of the victims lost their lives because they didn't manage to run away and suffocated. So I decided to invent something," said Liu, who lives in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

His device incorporates a safety belt, rope, hook and a speed-controller that can lower up to 100 kg from a seven-story building within seconds.

Liu said his love of invention came from his days as a child when his family relied on collecting garbage, stripping everything recyclable and reassembling it into something new.

"These were the only toys for me. But I enjoyed it. They were my unique version of Transformers," he joked.

Before going to college, Liu had five inventions patented by the State Intellectual Property Office of China. During his three years of college life, he enriched his inventory with another 13.

Liu's patents include a glove that can play music without an instrument, an alarm wristband that can be connected to a cell phone or wallet and make a sound when they are missing, and a book-sized wireless battery-charging pad that can provide energy for everything electrical.

"Some of them were easy to make, like the musical glove, taking me only three days after I saw a little girl on the bus moving her fingers as if playing a piano, and hoping they could make a real sound. But others were much tougher," Liu said.

The escape device has cost Liu more than half a year.

"I hurt my arm testing out the first version because the speed controller didn't work well, and it took me half a month to get my arm better. And the second wasn't easy enough to use," Liu said.

But for Liu's parents, the risk hasn't always been worth the reward.

"At first, we thought it took too much of his school time and distracted him from textbooks," said Liu's father Yu Yilong. "And now, we still worry a lot about his safety, as most of the projects are potentially very dangerous, though he barely tells us anything. But we can always tell from the bandages or wounds on his body."

A company in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, has invested 5 million yuan to put Liu's escape device into production, and granted Liu 20 percent of the revenue. "It is being examined for quality and safety by the government department. Once passed, it will be produced by October," Liu said.

Cai Guoyun, the company's owner, shows great confidence in Liu's talent.

"The escape device Liu invented perfectly meets the rising demand of a fire fighting device in the market," said Cai, a veteran venture capital manager.

But Liu is not satisfied yet. He cherishes the ambition of having a company of his own that can turn everything he invents into products, or eventually, cash.

"In the past, I was too young to protect my works, and often sold them for hundreds or thousands of yuan, which I was very regretful for," Liu said.

"But now, I think it's time to make my work more worthwhile," he said.

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