Crystal clarity wins Israeli the Nobel Prize for Chemistry


Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman Wednesday won the 2011 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the secret of quasicrystals, an atomic mosaic whose discovery overturned theories about solids. Shechtman, aged 70, ran into fierce hostility among fellow chemists after making a eureka-like discovery in 1982 that at the time was dismissed as laughable. Today, his work “has fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter,” the Nobel jury said.
“It’s a paradigm shift in chemistry. His findings have rewritten the first chapter of textbooks of ordered matter,” Sven Lidin, a member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said in a separate tribute. Quasicrystals are crystals whose atomic pattern is highly geometrical yet never repeats. To the untutored eye, they look strikingly similar to the tiled patterns of abstract Islamic art. Shechtman’s exploit can be pinpointed to April 8, 1982, one of the extremely rare examples when a scientific breakthrough can be dated to a moment in time.