Alan J. Heeger
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2000
Born: 22 January 1936, Sioux City, IA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Prize motivation: “for the discovery and development of conductive polymers”
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 Heeger, Alan MacDiarmid, 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.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
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