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International comparative study on nanofiltration membrane technology based on relevant publications and patents


This study adopts a bibliometric approach to quantitatively assess current research trends in nanofiltration membrane technology (NFM), a new membrane separation technology widely used in various fields. It analyses scientific papers published between 1988–2011 in all journals contained in the Science Citation Index and patent data with the same time span from the Derwent patent database. The study examines developments in basic NFM research and technological innovations. Over the past 24 years, there has been a notable growth in publication outputs. Compared with other countries, China exhibited a rapid growth, particularly from 2000–2011, with its total number of papers ranking second only to the United States (US). Chinese NFM papers focus on energy and agriculture, while the US focuses on biochemistry and molecular biology. China holds the most global NFM patents, with rapid growth in patent numbers from 2005–2011. China, the US and Japan together hold 78 % of the total global NFM patents and have a strong technological advantage in water treatment and separation technology. Although there are four Chinese institutions in the top 10 patentee list, most are application patents that focus on the integrated application of existing nanofiltration membrane. In contrast the patents owned by foreign patentees are mostly research patents involving technology innovations of the nanofiltration membrane itself. Therefore, NFM research capacity in China should be further strengthened to maximize the advantages gained via research to date.

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This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 70973118) and the National High Technology Research and Development Program (863) of China (No. 2011AA01A206).

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Correspondence to Lihua Zhai.

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Zhai, L., Pan, Y., Guo, Y. et al. International comparative study on nanofiltration membrane technology based on relevant publications and patents. Scientometrics 101, 1361–1374 (2014).

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  • Nanofiltration membrane (NFM)
  • Output of science and technology
  • Scientific papers
  • Patent
  • Bibliometric analysis