Alan MacDiarmid

MacDiarmid polymers

MacDiarmid polymers - Alan MacDiarmid

If you're not sure what conducting polymers are or why they are important, you aren't alone. It took 23 years for other scientists, the electronics industry and finally the Nobel committee to catch on to how game-changing MacDiarmid's discovery was. Put simply, a conducting polymer is a plastic that can conduct electricity.

Before MacDiarmid and his collaborators published their findings in 1977 it was thought the two terms were mutually exclusive. To help illustrate why the discovery has had such an impact on the world, look at it this way: On the one hand we have plastics which are cheap, easy to synthesise, cheap to process, light in weight, and easily mouldable into any shape. We all know how many uses plastics have been put to in everyday life.

On the other hand we have something equally important ' metals that conduct electricity. Conductors are elemental in the manufacture of all the electronic devices that are increasingly changing our world. But conductors are all metals. They are neither cheap, nor easily synthesised, easily processed or light in weight.