Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Alan J. Heeger
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.
See the list of all Nobel Prizes, awarded for "the greatest benefit to mankind."
In his will, Alfred Nobel left 31 million SEK to found the Nobel Prizes.
Medicine Laureate Shinya Yamanaka talks about the importance of taking risks.