Alan MacDiarmid receives one third of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Alan Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa "for the discovery and development of conductive polymers". Conductive plastic is used in the creation of anti-static substances for photographic film and windows able to exclude sunlight. Semi-conductive polymers are exploited in light-emitting diodes, solar cells and cell phones' displays. Thanks to molecular electronics the speed of PCs is increased while reducing their size.
Alan MacDiarmid marries Marian Laurene Mathieu, whom he had first met at an international club dance at the University of Wisconsin. They marry in the chapel of the Sidney Sussex College.
Alan MacDiarmid receives a Fulbright fellowship from the U.S. State Department to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. He studies under Professor Norris F. Hall, majoring in Inorganic Chemistry, working on the rate of exchange in 14C-tagged complex metal cyanides. In this period he is elected Knapp Research Fellow and he obtains also a New Zealand Shell graduate scholarship to study at Cambridge University.
The collaboration between MacDiarmid, Shirakawa and Heeger leads to the discovery of metallic conductivity in an organic polymer thus introducing and establishing the field of conducting polymers. The intuition of the discovery is MacDiarmid's idea of adding bromide to a precursor of polysulfurnitride, since in previous tests bromide had increased conductivity of other materials by tenfold. Unexpectedly, adding bromide increases the conductivity of their latest mixture by many millions of times.
Towards the end of his life Alan MacDiarmid becomes ill with myelodysplastic syndrome. He dies at the age of 79, following a fall at his home in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.
Alan MacDiarmid undertakes a second Ph.D. at Cambridge University. His thesis on silicon hydrides is supervised by H. J. Emeléus.
Alan MacDiarmid earns his M. Sc. in Chemistry at Victoria University College working on the chemistry of S4N4 (tetrasulfur tetranitride), beautiful bright orange colour crystals. This results in his first publication in 1949.
Alan MacDiarmid accepts a junior position on the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. He becomes Full Professor in 1964 and Blanchard Professor of Chemistry in 1988. At University of Pennsylvania at first he works on organo-silicon chemistry. In 1973, he begins research with the physicist Alan Heeger on (SN)x, an unusual polymeric material with metallic conductivity.
MacDiarmid is appointed the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science & Technology, and also the position of Professor of Chemistry and Physics at the University of Texas at Dallas. Among his later researches is the study of carbon nanotubes as possible analogues of conducting polymers. He creates also electronic organic fibres with a diameter of ~ 4 nanometres, aiming at combining the fields of electronic organic polymers and electronic nanofibres to develop a new field of "nanoelectronics".
In 1975, Alan MacDiarmid is Visiting Professor at Kyoto University in Japan, lecturing on molecular silicon compounds, while he is introduced to a new form of polyacetylene by Dr. Hideki Shirakawa at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. His interest in organic conducting polymers begins here.
Alan MacDiarmid attends Hutt Valley High School. After only three years, at the age of 16, he leaves this school because of a new family's relocation.
MacDiarmid takes part-time job as "lab boy" in the chemistry department at Victoria University College. As a lab boy, he washes dirty labware and sweeps floors, but he also prepares demonstration chemicals for Mr. A.D. Monro, the lecturer in first-year chemistry. As a part-time student, he takes only two courses - one in chemistry and one in mathematics. He remains a part-time student throughout his B.Sc. in Chemistry, after which he is appointed Demonstrator in the undergraduate laboratories.
Alan MacDiarmid is born in Masterton, one of five children of Archibald MacDiarmid, a marine engineer, and his wife, Ruby MacDiarmid. Because of the Great Depression the family moves to Lower Hutt, a few miles from Wellington. There, his two older brothers and his elder sister find jobs. He and his younger sister attend still at primary school. At the age of ten, he develops an interest in chemistry from one of his father's old textbooks and from chemistry' books found in the public library.
Alan MacDiarmid spends a short period at the University of St Andrews, Scotland as a junior faculty member.