One of the key issues being discussed at COP26 is a move away from fossil-based fuels to alternative sources of energy. There is no single answer but many experts agree that one of the most promising options is actually based on the simplest of all of the elements: hydrogen. Despite also being the most abundant element, unlocking the potential of hydrogen presents many different challenges. Luckily, inventors like nothing more than a challenge, as reflected in the global rise in hydrogen-related patent filings over the last five to ten years.
An important factor in exploiting hydrogen's potential is using energy from renewable sources to electrolyse water to produce hydrogen, so-called 'green hydrogen'. Interestingly, while China's leader may have chosen not to attend COP26, an analysis of patent filings for technologies relating to green hydrogen over the last five years shows that significantly more patent applications were filed in China during that period than in the US or Europe, and that the rate of growth of new patent filings in that field in China is greatly outstripping that in the US and Europe (see below). Hopefully, we will soon see the US and Europe making up for lost time.