medal
Image: The Nobel Foundation

Three polymer scientistsAlan J. Heeger of the University of California at Santa Barbara; Alan G. MacDiarmid of the University of Pennsylvania; and Hideki Shirakawa of the University of Tsukubahave now received this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for the discovery and development of conductive polymers." They will share equally the nine million Swedish kroner that comes with the honor. The men made their seminal findingsnamely, that plastics can be modified to conduct electricityat the end of the 1970s. Since then, their discovery has spawned a major research field and inspired many practical applications. Conductive polymers are either being developed for or are common in antistatic substances for photographic film, shields for computer screens against electromagnetic radiation and "smart" windows that can exclude sunlight. Semiconductive polymers have also been fashioned into light-emitting diodes, solar cell and displays for mobile phones. For additional information about the laureates' work from the Nobel Foundation, see www.nobel.se/announcement/2000/chemreading.html