October 5, 2011
2011 Nobel Prize for Chemistry: Quasicrystals
COLLEGE PARK, MD – Technion professor Daniel Shechtman’s revolutionary discovery of quasiperiodic crystals (quasicrystals) is the subject of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The research first appeared in the American Physical Society publication Physical Review Letters in 1984.
In normal crystals, atoms lie on three-dimensional lattices of cells and each cell has an identical pattern of cells surrounding it. In a quasicrystal, the local arrangements of atoms are fixed, but each cell has a different configuration of cells nearby. Although the structures are strikingly similar to the quasiperiodic tilings invented by mathematician Roger Penrose (which Martin Gardner popularized in a 1977 Mathematical Games column in Scientific American), there was little in the crystallographic field to presage the experimental breakthrough. Shechtman himself did not immediately recognize the quasiperiodic structure in his sample, and was at first mystified by the diffraction pattern. "I knew the diffraction pattern was not from twins [which result from a common crystal defect]," recalled Shechtman in a 2003 interview with APS News, "but I did not come up with an explanation for what it was."
"The discovery of quasicrystals was so revolutionary,” said APS Editor in Chief Gene Sprouse, “that Shechtman initially had trouble getting a peer-reviewed science journal to publish his research. However, by the time he submitted it to Physical Review Letters, some experts had become aware of its importance and it was quickly accepted and published, and is now one of the ten most cited articles in the history of the journal."
"On behalf of the American Physical Society,” said Kate Kirby, Executive Officer of the APS, “I extend warmest congratulations to Professor Shechtman for his pioneering discovery of quasicrystals, which has given birth to a rich field of study at the intersection of physics, chemistry, and materials science."
The American Physical Society (www.aps.org) is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities. APS represents over 51,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, DC.