First isolated in 2004 by Sir Konstantin Novoselov and Sir Andre Geim from the University of Manchester, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research, graphene is a 2-D, nanomaterial comprised of an isolated plane of graphite atoms, forming the thinnest material imaginable. Its electrical properties make it the best conductor of heat in existence. It is also extremely strong, with a breaking strength 200 times greater than steel, giving it potentially radical applications in aerospace and the automobile industry, among many others.
The commercial implications of this for computer engineering, semi-conductors and microchip design are profound. Graphene’s unique optical characteristics will enable significant advancements in laser technologies, touch screens, liquid crystal displays, solar cells, ultra-capacitors and batteries, to name but a few.
Not surprisingly, intense patent activity is. Samsung is one notable giant that is pursuing an aggressive and effective strategy – its network has grown six-fold in recent years. China is forging ahead too – it made 2204 graphene patent filings last year, the highest of any country. The UK, meanwhile, made just 54 filings.
Andrew Haigh, Executive Director, Head of Client Propositions at Coutts, said: “Graphene has potentially game-changing applications across many industries. While discovered in the UK, it remains unclear who will ultimately benefit the most from the commercialisation of this “wonder material” of the 21st Century. When the substance was discovered nearly a decade ago, the door to this research was wide-open to other nations that had the corporate backing to maximise this untapped opportunity through development of their own patents. The extensive development of Graphene has shown how the firepower of global corporations can be used to accelerate commercialisation. China is leading the way when it comes to Graphene patents.”