Obituary Professor Poopathy Kathirgamanathan

23 December 2019

23 December 2019

It is with regret that SCI announces the death of member Professor Poopathy Kathirgamanathan FRSC. He was a long standing and invaluable member of the Materials Chemistry and Electrochemical Technology groups, he was also affiliated with the London Group.

Professor Poopathy Kathirgamanathan FRSC, or PK as he was known to friends and colleagues, passed away on 20th November 2019 after a long illness. He had started his career in 1986 at Cookson Group Plc’s Central Research Laboratory in Perivale, West London, after completing doctorate and post-doctorate studies at Exeter University.

At Cookson, he led the development of intrinsically conducting polymers and their applications as radar absorbers, microwave bonding and sensor materials. Colleagues at the time may recall PK bringing in a new microwave oven one day and eagerly unpacking it, plugging it in and placing inside a gram or so of polyaniline powder and switching on the oven and within seconds there being a loud bang as the polyaniline burst into flames. PK looked at the folks watching the experiment and with his customary boisterous enthusiasm punched the air and said, ‘well it definitely absorbs microwaves’.

He was known at Cookson for his fantastic rate of idea generation, tough work ethics and relentlessly pushing his team for completion of R&D work. Always greatly enthusiastic and animated with a trademark energetic wave and a booming ‘HELLO’ greeting of colleagues, he was totally dedicated to his work.  Sadly, Cookson ran into financial trouble in 1992, PK’s research group became a casualty and was folded up.

PK then moved to the University of South Bank, London to take up a professorship in Electronic Materials Engineering. It was here that he carried out pioneering research in rare earth metal OLED materials, research that led to the formation of a spin-out company called Elam-T that was subsequently re-branded as OLED-T.

PK gave all his energy and creative input to OLED-T for over 10 years but unfortunately the venture could not compete with the hugely better funded efforts progressing in Asia. OLED-T was eventually wound-up in 2008 and its considerable patent portfolio was sold to Merck. PK then moved to take up a professorship in Electronic Materials Engineering at Brunel University. Here, he continued to push the boundaries of performance of OLED materials and lately, the development of quantum dots LEDs.

In 2019 he was awarded an Innovate UK grant for research into quantum dot displays and signage. He also won a 2019 award from the Society for Information Displays (SID), ‘For his contributions to charge-transport materials for OLED displays and lighting.’  

With over 200 publications including many patents, PK was well established as an international expert in OLED in particular and electronic materials in general.

He held a number of positions in international learned bodies. His cheerful presence and contributions will be sadly missed by the international displays and electronic materials technology community.

He is survived by his wife Jayanthi, his daughter Janany and his son Ganesh, to whom we extend our sincere condolences.

Dosten Baluch, colleague of PK's from Cookson 

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