Alan MacDiarmid Won’t Be Making This Trip

Filed by Steve Ritter

Alan G. MacDiarmid of the University of Pennsylvania, who recently passed away at age 79, was best known for codiscovering and helping to develop plastics that conduct electricity. He shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on conducting polymers (C&EN, Feb. 12, page 16).

In recent years, MacDiarmid had become interested in “agri-energy,” the field of converting biomass, in particular agricultural wastes, into fuels and chemicals. He had traveled to Brazil on a number of occasions to study the country’s biofuels industry and served as an adviser to the Brazilian government in preparing a strategic plan for biofuels development.

ACS’s Brad Miller, who organized the current trip to Brazil, met with MacDiarmid last year and invited him to participate this week. MacDiarmid enthusiastically agreed, and he was to deliver the plenary address at the upcoming symposium. But MacDiarmid became ill during the past year and died on Feb. 7.

In a presentation MacDiarmid made last year, he spoke about such a meeting that is taking place here in Brazil: “We need to have, in some part of the world, a working meeting—not a meeting where we sit back and discuss things very pleasantly and then go back home to our respective organizations on Monday morning and do exactly what we had been doing before the meeting,” MacDiarmid said. “We must ask ourselves, ‘What will we do differently on Monday because of the meeting?’ ”

MacDiarmid went on to say that a group of enthusiastic scientists from a variety of organizations and countries needs to determine the state of the current science on biomass conversion, then develop a specific plan, without “reinventing the wheel,” for what should come next. The plan of action from such an effort should be done as a partnership, he added.

Members of the U.S.-Brazil contingent appear poised to take MacDiarmid’s message to heart.

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