Whose technology is it anyhow?

Much has been made in the foreign press about the Chinese breaking copyright, pirating, and generally claiming other people’s ideas as their own.

But the biggest victims of pirating by the Chinese are not only the music or film companies, the high tech companies or others that you hear about.   The Chinese themselves are the losers.

In the last couple of years, there has been talk about new cathode technology being developed in China.    The idea behind the concept is to reduce ACD* and thereby reduce DC current consumption.   The way to do this in the eyes of the inventor was to create an additional channel across the cathode.

I am not an expert, but in my mind this idea is not supposed to work.   The last thing you want on the floor of your reduction pot is channels where bits of anode, molten metal and gunk can all collect.   But Chalco has more than 300 pots in operation using the new channel design, with some pots already chalking up their first birthday.   Such is the success of the concept that privately Chalco are claiming to have reduced DC by 1000kwh.

That’s all very well, but last night over dinner, another technology company told me that the idea doesn’t belong to Chalco.   According to my friend, the technology was invented and originally tested at a university in China’s North East.   (That’s a clue for those of you who know China’s aluminium technology market.)

No way of knowing who is right.   In China’ patents are based on “first to file”, not “first to invent”.    But I hope it is the technology company, not Chalco, that came up with the concept.   That way, it can be shared with others, for a total industry gain, rather than locked into Chalco smelters for a single competitive advantage.

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