XRCC's 2,000th Patent Involves "Miracle Material"

Two hundred times stronger than steel, graphene is a thin, flexible conductor that could form the basis of a whole range of next generation devices such as ultrafast transistors that will dramatically increase the processing speed of a smartphone or tablet PC.

Hailed as the “miracle material” in the world of electronics and photonics, scientists around the world are studying how to make graphene a commercially viable industrial material. Scientists at Xerox Research Centre Canada (XRCC) are no exception. In fact, the center just crossed its 2000th patent milestone with an invention dubbed “Graphene Nano-Sheets and Methods for Making the Same” (U.S. Patent #8,734,683).

“Some of the most pressing scientific challenges today are due to the limitations of materials,” said Paul Smith, vice president and centre manager. “It’s fitting that our 2,000th patent reflects both our proven expertise in materials science and points to the new innovative materials we are exploring for digital manufacturing, including materials to make smart 3D structures those that support the Internet of Everything.”

XRCC researchers Yiliang Wu and Sandra Gardner were the inventors named on the patent. Yiliang, a principal scientist, leads the center’s printable electronics activities. He was one of the first recipients of the Xerox Anne Mulcahy Inventor Award and holds more than 100 U.S. patents. Sandra, a research technologist, specializes in materials characterization, an area that uses various techniques to probe into the internal structure and properties of a material.

During the past 40 years, XRCC researchers have been instrumental in designing key proprietary materials and production processes for Xerox printers and copiers. Today, it delivers solutions in printing as well as electronic materials, consumer packaging, sustainable chemical processes, coatings and security/authentication.

“The 2,000 patent is a significant accomplishment for our small community of about 100 researchers,” Smith said. “I attribute this milestone to our culture which encourages collaboration and people’s passion for new materials opportunities.”

Some of the key practices XRCC uses to encourage innovation include:
  • Intellectual Property (IP) Champions: these researchers are assigned to each materials portfolio and works closely with project leaders to develop IP strategy and ensure comprehensive coverage of IP space.
  • Technical Exchange Day: project leaders across the center share their technical challenges, encouraging discussion and brainstorming.
  • Monthly ID days: senior managers set aside monthly ID days for staff to write IP.