BBC TV news today had a report on the importance of graphene, a single layer (one atom thick)“honeycomb” form of carbon which has useful properties, and which was discovered in Manchester in 2004 by two Russian scientists (who later received a Nobel Prize). The report mentioned that the discovery hadn’t been patented.
Their website has an interesting article, Graphene: patent surge reveals global race which shows that the UK is a long way behind China, the USA and South Korea. This is from quotes from an apparently priced report by CambridgeIP including there being over 7000 published patent specifications for the new material.
The reason why there are so many patent documents is that graphene can be used for many different purposes. It can be used for example for delivering medicines, as in this list (as it has such a high surface area).
It is also one hundred times stronger than steel. Its use as a flexible, electrically conductive material means that it can be used in solar cells and in the touchscreens of mobile phones.
Identifying such patents sounds hard, though.
Bytesize Science has an interesting video called Graphene: the next wonder material ? which suggests that new phone touchscreens will be the first significant use of graphene.