Today, we meet Charlotte Harrison, Programme Manager at FlexEnable.
1. Was science and engineering always your chosen career path?
At school, I really enjoyed maths and science and always knew it was something I wanted to pursue further. I studied physics at university but knew I didn’t want to do a PhD, so I looked at alternative options and completed mini-internships with Rothschild, Bank of America and Deloitte but found I missed my scientific roots.
It was only after a full internship in Procter & Gamble’s R&D labs that I understood I wanted to pursue a career in R&D in a commercial environment. At university, I particularly enjoyed condensed matter physics and optics and so looked for a graduate programme in that area and was lucky to join the programme at Sharp Laboratories of Europe which is how I first entered the field of consumer electronics and later organic electronics.
2. How did you first become interested in organic electronics and what has kept you so engaged in this industry?
At Sharp, my work was focused on LCDs but I found that applications were often limited by the restricted form factors offered by glass. That’s when I became interested in organic electronics and the flexible substrates they’re built on. In 2011, I moved to the test team at FlexEnable, and after a few years shifted my focus to project management. I have remained engaged with the industry due to the increasing number of applications in which organic electronics can solve problems and offer more interesting form factors.
3. What have been the most significant breakthroughs you have seen during your career?
It’s difficult to choose as there have been many important advances, however, the most significant to me is the move from lab to fab. Whilst a technology may be impressive in a lab it’s of no use if it can’t be mass manufactured. FlexEnable’s OTFT process has already been proven in mass production and we are working with multiple partners through our technology transfer and licensing programmes, I’m very excited to see how this progresses further.
4. What other applications are there for organic semiconductor materials beyond Organic LCDs and LC Optics?
In addition to LCD backplanes and LC Optics, FlexEnable’s OTFTs can be used in logic circuits, for multiplexing and to build integrated gate driver circuits, which offers further flexibility when designing a flexible or conformed product. For example, if traditional gate driver chips are used it would mean that the substrate could only be curved in one axis in the area close to the driver chip, but if FlexEnable’s OTFTs are used for the gate driver as well as the backplane greater freedom in curvature can be achieved. There is also the added benefit of a reduced bill of materials and fewer steps in manufacturing.
5. What advice would you give to a student of a STEM subject who wanted to pursue a career in flexible organic electronics?
Organic electronics is an exciting field with a wide number of applications which I think you could find very exciting! Try and find out more about the field and maybe even look for internship opportunities in the area so that you can get hands-on experience to see if it’s right for you.