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Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Digital Libraries Projects - Patent Analysis

Nanotechnology Patent Analysis

Project Description

Nanotechnology holds the promise of revolutionizing a wide range of significant application areas and has been recognized by most countries as the technology area critical to a nation's future technology competence. We provide an international patent analysis using the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data searched by keywords of the entire text: title, abstract, claims, and specifications. We analyzed the technology development performance, knowledge flow patterns, and major areas of development of various countries, institutions, and technology fields and have identified new trends of National Science Foundation (NSF) developments, which are summarized by countries, institutions, and technology fields.

Also we provide a comprehensive analysis of NSF funding support in Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE) and its relationship to the innovation reflected in the patent data. The NSF support to NSE as described by the NSF grant dataset and its impact on technological innovation as described by the USPTO patent dataset have been analyzed using a combination of basic bibliometric analysis and advanced content and citation visualization tools, we identified the general trend, key players, and technology topic distribution and evolution in grant and patenting activities in the nanotechnology field. This study shows that the NSF-funded researchers, who are NSE patent inventors and also the principle investigators of NSE-related NSF grants, referred to as “PI-inventors” in our study, in average had significantly higher impact in nanotechnology development than other comparison groups reflected in the patent citation data.

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We would like to express our gratitude to NSF Digital Library Initiative-2, "High-performance Digital Library Systems:  From Information Retrieval to Knowledge Management,"  IIS-9817473, April 1999-March 2002

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Approach & Methodology


  • US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data searched by keywords of the entire text: title, abstract, claims, and specifications.
  • 122,778 grant awards in all science and engineering fields accessed at


  • Basic analysis on the key indicators of technology development performance
  • Linkage analysis between grant and patent data set
  • Content map analysis
  • Using Arizona Noun Phraser-indexing and Kohonen self-organization map (SOM) algorithm to compare and associate the main topic areas. For example, Figures 1 present NSE grant content maps from 1991 to 1995. It shows that from 1991 to 1995, NSF-funded grants were concentrated in several technology topics including “microscope,” “quantum dots/effects,” “spectroscope,” and “Chemical Vapor Depositions.”

    Figure 1
    Figure 1. NSE grant content map (1991-1995)

  • Longitudinal content map analysis visualizes the change of topic areas in terms of time periods. Figure 2 displays many new grant topics (shown as red regions) during 1996-2000, for instance, “organic molecules,” “molecular dynamics.” The major topic areas of “Composite Materials” and “Force Microscopes” (shown as orange regions) continue with a higher growth rate than the base rate. The topic areas “Nanostructured Materials” and “Quantum Dots” (shown as green regions) had the base growth rate. Other topic areas, including “Electron Microscope,” “Probe Microscopes,” and “Molecular Structure” (shown as blue and white regions), had a lower growth rate than the base growth rate.

    Figure 2
    Figure 2. NSE grant content map (1996-2000)

  • Citation network analysis

    • Graphviz, an open source graph drawing software, provided by AT&T Labs (Gansner and North, 2000) (available at: For instance, the country citation network between 1976 and 2002 is shown in Figure 2 (with the citation count threshold of 10).

      Figure 3
      Figure 3. Country Citation Network: 1976 – 2002 (Citation counts > 10)
    • NetDraw, a free network drawing program by Steve Borgatti (available at: Figure 11 shows the citation network for the largest NSE field “Chemistry: molecular biology and microbiology.”

      Figure 4
      Figure 3. Patent citation network: “Chemistry: molecular biology and microbiology”
    • Statistical Hypothesis Testing

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    Team Members

       Dr. Hsinchun Chen
       Zan Huang  
       Lijun Yan  

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    Z. Huang, H. Chen, Z.-K. Chen and M. C. Roco, "International Nanotechnology Development in 2003: Country, Institution, and Technology Field Analysis Based on USPTO Patent Database," Journal of Nanoparticale Research (JNR), 6(4), 325-354, (2004).

    Z. Huang, H. Chen, A. Yip, G. Ng, F. Guo, Z.-K. Chen and M. C. Roco, “Longitudinal Patent Analysis for Nanoscale Science and Engineering: Country, Institution and Technology Field,” Journal of Nanoparticale Research (JNR), 5, 333-363, (2003).

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