In Britain, a battle to spin great science into gold

File photograph of a senior technologist holding a piece of silicon carbide disk covered with a layer of grapheneBy Ben Hirschler and Kate Kelland MANCHESTER/CAMBRIDGE England (Reuters) – It's mega strong, ultra light and super stretchy, and if things work out, a wonder material discovered in Britain could change many aspects of human existence – starting with peoples' sex lives. Safer and sensually superior condoms may not have been the first thing on the minds of the Nobel-winning team at the University of Manchester that isolated graphene a decade ago, but they may be an early eye-catching use of the new one-atom-thick material. Billed as potentially the most important discovery of this century, graphene – the thinnest material on earth and 200 times stronger than steel – is also exciting researchers around the world exploring its use in everything from electronics to nanotech drug delivery. For British science, among the biggest questions is whether graphene's home nation can spin its breakthrough into real monetary gain, or whether – as a Thomson Reuters patent analysis suggests – global big hitters will nip in and grab the market.

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