According to just released data by CambridgeIP and carried yesterday by BBC online news, since graphene was discovered in 2004, there have been 7,531 graphene patents and patent applications globally, through the end of 2012. Chinese firms and research groups lead with 2,204 apparently, with the USA second with 1,754. South Korea comes in a respectable third with 1,160. South Korea’s electronics giant Samsung with 407 is the single company with the largest amount of patents and patent applications to date.
Graphene was first discovered in 2004, by Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novosolev, two Russian scientists working at the University of Manchester, UK, which won them a Nobel Prize in 2010, followed by UK Knighthoods last year. So how many patents does the UK hold? Just a pathetic 54 is the answer, with 16 of those held by the University of Manchester. The rest of the world combined holds 2,359, with the majority of those in Japan and the European Union.
In fairness to the University of Manchester:
Clive Rowland, chief executive of UMI3, the University of Manchester’s innovation group company, said: “The majority of patents cited are in applications of the technology, whereas the University of Manchester is focusing on the fundamentals on the basis that you will need to make and functionalise graphene first before you can use it in most consumer or industrial applications – by which time some early patents may have expired.
“So we are patenting in areas that we believe will be ‘most useful’, such as scalable manufacturing techniques, coatings, and composites, and only patenting a few in specific applications where we feel that the Manchester work is so significant and where we have strong experimental data to warrant a filing. Examples of these include graphene polymer composite and fluorographene.
While not all patents and patent applications are equal, it does give an early indication of where to expect the first commercial graphene products to come from. In less than 8 years, 7,500 patents is pretty impressive, and suggests that new industrial revolution is shortly to emerge. But the story is even better than that. The first big spike in graphene patents didn’t occur until 2007, with another big spike last year. In effect the graphene game is really only just getting underway. We are privileged to stand at the start of the new Carbon Age.
Graphene, a super-lightweight carbon material, is stronger than steel, more conductive than copper as flexible as rubber. Graphene is expected to revolutionise everything from smartphones and touch screen devices, to rollable e-screens. Semiconductors, and ultrafast quantum computers. Water desalination, and anti-cancer drugs, the list goes on and on. As I wrote on January 9th in “Graphene To The Rescue In Gas Production,” where radioactive waste water is a problem in hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” oil and gas production from shale resources:
“Graphene oxide far surpasses other materials commonly used to remove radioactive toxins from water.”
“Thanks to the researchers at Rice and Lomonosov Moscow State University, we just might have found a way to put the “radioactive genie back into the bottle.”