Wrist watch size laptops and flat televisions screens based on LED film aren't yet in the shops - but they might be soon thanks to an 'accidental' scientific discovery 30 years ago.When Alan MacDiarmid, Alan Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa discovered that plastics could be conductors as well as insulators it turned conventional scientific thinking on its head.The scientific and commercial significance of the discovery was recognized last year with the award of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry to the three researchers. George Marsh explores their story and its continuing impact on electronics technology.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(01)80178-4