The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2000
Born: 20 August 1936, Tokyo, Japan
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan
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 Hideki Shirakawa, Alan Heeger and Alan MacDiarmid 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.