Alan G. MacDiarmid
Born: 14 April 1927, Masterton, New Zealand
Died: 7 February 2007, Drexel Hill, PA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Prize motivation: "for the discovery and development of conductive polymers"
Field: physical chemistry
Prize share: 1/3
Plastic material is composed of polymers - very large molecules that take the form of long chains of smaller molecules. Plastic usually does not conduct electricity, but at the end of the 1970s Alan MacDiarmid, Alan Heeger, and Hideki Shirakawa demonstrated that it is possible to produce conductive polymers. This requires alternating single and double bonds between carbon atoms in the chain and doping the polymers through the addition of suitable atoms so that free electrons or holes appear after the electrons. Conductive polymers can be used in electronics and other applications.