Published: 14 December 2020

Spotlight on Pavlos Giannakou, co-inventor of printable super capacitors

During his PhD in Electronics Engineering/Nanotechnology Pavlos Giannakou and his supervisor Dr Maxim Shkunov invented an ink that allows micro-supercapacitors (an energy storage device a bit like a battery) to be printed.

Pavlos Giannakou
Pavlos Giannakou

Who am I?

I am currently a PhD candidate under Dr Maxim Shkunov’s supervision in Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) at the University of Surrey. After graduating in the top 1% of my class as a Mechanical Engineer at the University of Surrey, I pursued a PhD in Nanotechnology and Nanoelectronics at the ATI. My current research is focused on printed electronics and energy storage, particularly supercapacitors. I am is the recipient of a series of academic awards including the Hudswell Scholarship 2020 from the IET.

Printed electronics

How do you transform a metal oxide with a melting point of 1,955 °C in a stable liquid form in order to use it as ink and print it at room temperature? The answer is ‘Nanotechnology’. Even though the melting point of bulk metals and metal oxides is usually above 1,000 °C, as they get smaller and smaller in the nanoscale, the surface-to-volume ratio of the nanoparticles becomes significantly higher to the point where the properties of these materials change and their melting point can be reduced down to just a few °C. With the help of surface chemistry, these nanoparticles can be dispersed in a mixture of solvents and that is how a functional ink is created. The ink can be printed using various methods to create any functional patterns that are going to work as the backbone of an electronic device. The patterns are thermally annealed to get rid of the solvent and fuse the nanoparticle together and create thin films of the material. This process was a significant stepping stone towards the development of “Printed Electronics” – the new era of electronics fabrication.

My invention

This invention is about a Nickel-(II) Oxide (NiO) nanoparticle-based ink that can be used with a conventional home printer or a screen printer. For this invention, NiO nanoparticles of various size (10 – 3000 nm) are dispersed in a mixture of solvents to create high concentration NiO inks for various applications in printed electronics. The ink has been used by the inventor to create inkjet-printed flexible NiO micro-supercapacitors, water-transferred and wearable (tattoo) NiO supercapacitors on skin but numerous other applications can be realised (e.g. thermistors, electrochromic windows, thin-film transistors, sensors etc.)

Working with the Technology Transfer Office

I thought my invention had good commercial potential, so I approached the Technology Transfer Office and filled out an invention disclosure form. They reviewed the invention and completed a freedom to operate search and a market search. These were both positive and a decision to file a patent was made, the Technology Transfer Office managed this process, but I provided technical details to help in the patent drafting.

Lessons learned

Many times, an invention is pure luck. We cannot control that. However, we can control the hours and the hard work that we put into an idea to make it a success story. Try to think out of the box, work hard and be passionate about it - in one way or another, something valuable and interesting will flourish

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