Purdue University researchers were awarded the sixth highest number of U.S. utility patents among universities worldwide in 2020—and the most among all Big Ten universities.
Through the Purdue Research Foundation, the school earned 175 patents, ranking it behind only the University of California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Texas, and Johns Hopkins University.
“This shows the world what we already know: Purdue has intellectually curious, creative and risk-taking faculty and students and continues to be a key economic driver in the state of Indiana and a game-changer in discovery,” Purdue Research Foundation President Brian Edelman said in a statement after the National Academy of Inventors released its annual list of the 100 universities with the most utility patents.
The Purdue Research Foundation is the home of the school’s Office of Technology Commercialization, which manages the licensing, patents and technology transfers for innovations created by university researchers. In 2020, the office filed 721 patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The sixth-place ranking was a significant move up for Purdue, which ranked 13th among universities for utility patents obtained in 2019 and 12th for patents obtained in 2018.
Indiana University researchers earned 53 patents last year, ranking the school 53rd on the top 100 list. That was also a big move up for IU, which ranked 71st in 2019 and 63rd in 2018.
Organizations and individuals can obtain utility patents when they create a new or improved product, process or machine that is deemed to be useful. An inventor who is awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office retains the exclusive right to make money off products that use the technology.
Among the easier-to-understand inventions that earned patents in 2020:
- A disposable smart bandage, created by Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor of engineering and biomedical engineering, who specializes in harnessing internet of things technology for everyday use. Martinez is not the first person to invent a smart bandage, but most are expensive and are monitors rather than healers. Martinez’s technology can assess tissue damage in open and closed wounds, promote healing through its breathable design, and doesn’t require medical personnel for application.
- A method for recycling plastic waste developed by Linda Wang, a professor of chemical engineering. Wang’s technology essentially liquifies plastic into an oil that can be used to make other chemicals.
- A way to alter a hormone in plants that will help them adapt to stresses, such as drought, frost or pollution, developed by Gyeong Mee Yoon, an assistant professor of plant pathology. Testing found the method showed no signs of disruption with the plants, but they recovered significantly faster from stresses such as salt and drought.