DALLAS — Alan G. MacDiarmid, a 2000 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry for his work to develop electrically conductive polymers, was named the International Award winner by the Society of Plastics Engineers.
The polymers, first developed in the 1970s, made possible a host of products, including rechargeable batteries, flexible plastic transistors and electrodes, electroluminescent polymer displays and two important breakthroughs for the computer electronics industry: electromagnetic interference shielding and anti-static dissipation.
Most types of polymers are not conductive. Rather, as insulators, they block the passage of electric current.
MacDiarmid received the International Award — SPE's highest honor — at an April 3 lunch hosted by the Philadelphia Section. Normally, award winners give a keynote speech at SPE's Annual Technical Conference, but MacDiarmid was traveling in Asia and unable to attend.
In a short speech, shown on videotape at Antec 2001, held May 6-10 in Dallas, MacDiarmid said conductive polymers belonged to neither chemistry nor physics.
"The field ... has been in the past a maverick type of field — a waif wandering around looking for a home," he said.
MacDiarmid, a chemistry professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, began to study an unusual polymeric material with metallike conductivity, called (SN)x, in 1973. Two years later, he was introduced to a new form of polyacetylene by Hideki Shirakawa at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Together with Alan Heeger, then working at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Physics, the three men discovered metallic conductivity in an organic polymer.
MacDiarmid shared the Nobel Prize with Shirakawa and Heeger.
In 1977, MacDiarmid was the chemist responsible for the chemical and electrochemical doping of polyacetylene, the prototype conducting polymer. The team also rediscovered polyaniline, which is now the most common industrial conductive polymer.
Today MacDiarmid is concentrating on polyaniline. His current work includes studying how to improve light-emitting organic polymers, and aniline materials in reversible sensors.
The Brookfield, Conn.-based SPE presented other awards May 8 during Antec:
John Vlachopoulos, chemistry engineering professor at McMaster University in Ontario, earned the Education Award. He created the Centre for Advanced Polymer Processing and Design at McMaster in 1987 and now serves as director. He has written 200 articles, conference chapters and book chapters. In 1994, he created PolyDynamics Inc. to do software research, development and marketing. He thanked former professors and past and present students.
Moshe Narkis, considered to be Israel's leading polymer scientist, won the Research Award, SPE said. A chemical engineering professor at Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Narkis is an expert in the area of particulate-filled and fiber-filled plastics. He developed a product called "Caesar-Stone" as an alternate to marble. Other research has focused on conducting polymers, cross-linking polyethylene, percolation in conducting systems, sintering of intractable polymers and blends. SPE said Narkis' research was recognized for "the singular way it bridges the academic and industrial worlds."
Jeffrey Clark, Closure Medical Corp.'s vice president of research and development, picked up the John W. Hyatt Award for Benefit to Society. He led a team that developed Dermabond skin adhesive, a liquid monomer, cyanoacrylate, that quickly polymerizes on contact with skin — to knit together cuts after surgery or in a hospital emergency room. Dermabond can replace sutures and staples. Clark, a chemist, is named as inventor on 11 patents of Closure Medical in Raleigh, N.C. Dermabond is used by doctors around the world and has appeared on the television show ER.
Yash P. Khanna, senior principal scientist at Honeywell Inc. in Morristown, N.J., earned the Fred O. Conley Award for Plastics Engineering/Technology. As early as the mid-1980s, Khanna demonstrated that a standard dynamic mechanical analyzer, or DMA, could provide information on melt rheology. That helped forge a link between traditional thermomechanical and rheological testing and businesses. One of Khanna's strengths is the ability to spot new phenomena in polymers that have been around for decades, such as nylon, polytetrafluoroethylene and polychlorotrifluoroethylene. He holds 18 U.S. patents and has written more than 120 research articles.
SPE also named two winners for best product. Winning the best consumer product award was the Rotasoc power strip with electrical plugs that rotate 360 degrees, for use in tight spaces in an office. Indes Design Consultants of London designed the Rotasoc for another London-based company, Ideim Ltd. Essex Injection Molders produced the ABS and nylon 6 parts at its plant in Essex, England.
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning won the industrial product award for new packaging for OC's asphalt that, when empty, gets thrown into the roofer's kettle and melts down into asphalt itself. The black, box-shaped Trumelt package is made of about 60 percent asphalt and 40 percent polymers, mostly polypropylene.
Owens Corning developed an injection molding process that compounds the polymers and asphalt in the barrel of the machine.