Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nanotechnology research outpacing peer review?

Nanowerk quotes Drummond Rennie for the proposition that peer review determines "where", not whether, a paper will be published.

There is also the question: "who benefits from patents arising from the work (or rather: who will get to patent new discoveries?)"

Further, on patents, there is text:

Of course it is naive to believe that researchers are always interested or encouraged to publish a paper on their research findings as soon as they have something to report. In today's research environment, where military research grants (at least in the U.S.) and corporate funding and commercialization aspects play such an important role, it often is much more important for researchers and their universities to secure patent claims first (some background: "Growing nanotechnology problems: navigating the patent labyrinth"). And scientists working for companies or military research outfits often will forgo publication altogether for the sake of competitive advantage or military secrecy.

IPBiz notes that, in most cases, a US patent application IS PUBLISHED, so that seeking a patent does NOT mean that one is suppressing in the information. Quite the opposite is true. The information is disclosed WHETHER OR NOT a patent is issued.

The article concludes: If the underlying field of research is changing so fast that the traditional process of publishing the findings cannot keep pace, it appears to be only a question of time before the whole system will undergo a radical change.

See also Growing nanotechnology problems: navigating the patent labyrinth which includes the text:

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) belong to the most exciting nanomaterials discovered so far and the buzz associated with them has to do with their amazing properties. Depending on their structure, they can be metals or semiconductors. They exhibit extraordinary mechanical properties, which make them extremely strong materials with good thermal conductivity. Their tensile strength is several times that of steel. These characteristics have generated strong interest in their possible use in reinforced composites, nanoelectronics, nanomechanical devices, circuits and computers. Single-wall nanotubes (SWNTs) are an intriguing variant of carbon nanotubes because they exhibit important electrical properties that are not shared by the multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNT). SWNTs are the most likely candidate for miniaturizing electronics toward the nanoscale.


A recent legal paper identifies key patents claiming compositions of matter, methods of production, and products incorporating nanotubes. The authors summarize potential patent invalidity arguments that may be raised against certain patents in the field and explain how the patent landscape impacts the commercialization of nanotube-based products.

IPBiz was surprised to see the following paragraph on nanowerk:

Apart from the classic 1952 Radushkevich and Lukyanovich paper (O strukture ugleroda, obrazujucegosja pri termiceskom razlozenii okisi ugleroda na zeleznom kontakte), the earliest example of such "prior art" appeared in 1976, when researchers in France and Japan published an article entitled "Filamentous Growth of Carbon Through Benzene Decomposition", which described the creation of hollow tubes of carbon fibers. These tubes were made of "concentric sheets of carbon, set around the fibre axis, as the annual rings of a tree." The researchers describe the tube as "running parallel to the axis ... the diameter of which widely varies from about 20 Â to more than 500 Â." This could be used, for example, as prior art anticipating a multi-walled carbon nanotube. In fact, there are several other scientific publications prior to Ijima's 1991 Nature article that potentially could be used as "prior art" examples.

For starters, it ignores work by R.T.K. ("Terry") Baker on filamentary carbon done before 1976. Terry used controlled atmosphere electron microscopy [CAEM] to produce videos of filamentary carbon growing. Nanowerk ignored lots of other prior art too.


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