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About the University
Dr. Hideki Shirakawa

Dr. Hideki Shirakawa

Biography

1961 Graduated from Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology
1961-66 Graduate School of Engineering (Major in Engineering), Tokyo Institute of Technology
1966 Receives PhD in Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology: Research on block chains of copolymer
1966 Assistant at the Chemical Resources Laboratory, Tokyo Institute of Technology
1976 Doctorate researcher at University of Pennsylvania
1979 Associate Professor of Institute of Materials Science, University of Tsukuba
1982 Professor of Institute of Materials Science, University of Tsukuba
2000 Retired from the University of Tsukuba, and became Professor Emeritus

Awards

1983 The Award of the Society of Polymer Science, Japan (FY 1982): Research on polyacetylene
2000 SPSJ Award for Outstanding Achievement in Polymer Science and Technology (FY 1982): Discovery and development of conductive polymer
2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Discovery and development of conductive polymer
2000 Order of Culture and selected as Person of Cultural Merit
2000 Professor Emeritus of the University of Tsukuba
2001 Special Award of the Chemical Society of Japan

Research works

Dr. Shirakawa pioneered a new field of "conductive polymers" by challenging the commonly held view that polymers do not conduct electricity. His main works can be classified into the following four.

1) Synthesis of polyacetylene thin films

Although polyacetylene was expected to have specific optical and electronic properties, its insolubility and infusibility obstructed the progress of research. Dr. Shirakawa found that polyacetylene thin films can be synthesized by polymerizing acetylene at the interface of concentrated Ziegler-Natta catalyst solutions. With the thin films, he clarified the molecular and solidified structures of polyacetylene.

2) Creation of metallic conductivity due to chemical doping

Dr. Shirakawa found that, when a trace of a halogen such as bromine or iodine is added to thin film polyacetylene, its electric conductivity increases and it exhibits metallic conductivity. By various spectroscopic measurements and evaluations of the physical properties of polyacetylene, he clarified that partial electron transfer between dopants and p-electrons of polyacetylene can generate metallic conductivity.

3) Development of acetylene polymerization using liquid crystals as solvents

Using liquid crystals as solvents, Dr. Shirakawa developed a method for the production of highly conductive polyacetylene thin films consisting of uni-axially oriented fibrils of polymer chains, in parallel with the polymerization of acetylene. Furthermore, by the polymerization of acetylene in chiral nematic liquid crystals, he succeeded in the synthesis of thin films of helical polyacetylene whose chirality is controllable.

4) Creation of conjugated liquid crystalline polymers

Dr. Shirakawa created self-oriented, conjugated liquid crystalline polymers by introducing liquid crystalline groups into the side chains of p-conjugated polymers such as polyacetylene. Furthermore, by macroscopically orienting the polymers with electric or magnetic fields, he succeeded in them having electric anisotropy and optical dichroizm.
For these pioneering works, Dr. Shirakawa received the Award of the Society of Polymer Science, Japan, the SPSJ Award for Outstanding Achievement in Polymer Science and Technology, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Currently, the application of conductive polymers has spread widely to various new fields, such as light-emitting polymer diodes, new color screens, and polymer batteries. In the 21st century, it is expected that plastic electronics based on conductive polymers and molecular electronics built just on molecules may develop from this.

How to sign up for a visit

Dr. Hideki Shirakawa, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000, conducted his research in the Institute of Materials Science. His laboratory was preserved as the Shirakawa Room and opened on April 1, 2001. The room contains Dr. Shirakawa's desk, documents, graduation theses, Master's theses, and Doctoral theses written by students of his laboratory, large square writing cards, conductive polymer models, videos that he made, works that he published after receiving the Nobel Prize, and other memorabilia. If you would like to visit, please contact the Institute of Materials Science Office at 029-853-4996.

Information

University of Tsukuba Gallery / Shirakawa Memorial Room
On-campus media interview with Professor Emeritus Shirakawa
Related on- and off-campus sites
Institute of Materials Science (affiliated department)
College of Engineering (department in charge of education)
Nobel Foundation

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