Shirakawa, Hideki, 1936–, Japanese chemist, Ph.D. Tokyo Institute of Technology, 1966. Shirakawa was a research assistant at the Tokyo Institute of Technology from 1966 to 1979. He then taught at the Univ. of Tsukuba, where he was a professor from 1979 until he retired in 2000. In 2000 Shirakawa was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Alan MacDiarmid and Alan Heeger for the discovery and development of conductive polymers. Although plastics have long been used as insulators because of their apparent inability to conduct electricity, the three researchers discovered that chemical modification enables some polymers to become as conductive as metals while retaining the flexibility and low weight of plastics. The discovery of conductive polymers provided the foundation for the field of molecular electronics.
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