‘Mosaic of Atoms’ Discoverer Wins Chemistry Nobel
HAIFA, Israel, Oct. 12, 2011 — The Nobel Prize in chemistry 2011 has been awarded to Daniel Shechtman of Technion, Israel Institute of Technology for the discovery of quasicrystals (quasiperiodic crystals).
Scientists are currently experimenting with using quasicrystals in various products, including LEDs.
Shechtman first discovered quasicrystals, which have regular patterns that never repeat themselves, in 1982. He then fought a battle against established science to defend his findings because the configuration he found in quasicrystals was considered contrary to the laws of nature.
Until Shechtman made his discovery, chemists believed that, in all solid matter, atoms were packaged inside crystals in repeating symmetrical patterns.
Contrary to the idea that periodicity — the repetition of these patterns — was essential for order and was thus needed to obtain a crystal, the image Shechtman viewed under his microscope showed a pattern that was impossible to repeat.
The discovery was so controversial that Shechtman eventually was asked to leave his research group. An article on the topic that he submitted to the Journal of Applied Physics in 1984 was refused by the editor.
However, aperiodic mosaics, which can be found in medieval Islamic artwork, for example, helped scientists understand the regular but never-repeating patterns of quasicrystals.
Shechtman’s discovery has led to the production of other kinds of quasicrystals in the laboratory as well as to the discovery of naturally occurring quasicrystals.
The 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. It fundamentally changes chemists’ conception of solid matter.
For more information, visit: www.nobelprize.org
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