The impact of hydraulic fracturing on cleantech is a critical subject central to the United States’ energy policy. Meanwhile, inventors continue to file for patent protection on hydraulic fracturing (HF) technology at an exploding rate. We previously reviewed granted U.S. patents in our March 20, 2011 HF entry. Here, we note published application trends. Compared to granted U.S. patents, published applications represent more recent filing trends. Again, we see an explosion.

Since 2008, over 300 patent publications publish each year mentioning hydraulic fracturing. Before 2006, this number was less 200. In essence, the rate of patenting nearly doubled over the 2006-2007 time period. While not all of these patent publications focus exclusively on hydraulic fracturing, many of them do (e.g., approximately 16% include the term in the title, abstract, or claim).

One important recent example comes from Professor James Tour, et al. (Rice University) who seeks to patent broadly "a drilling fluid comprising graphene." Tour's patent represents an important connection with nanotechnology. Another interesting example includes use of nano-robots (2010/0242585)!

As previously mentioned, the USPTO will host a Clean Tech Partnership Meeting on April 27, 2011, at the Madison Building of the USPTO campus, addressing this and other key enabling technologies for cleantech.