60-Second Science

2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Daniel Shechtman of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for the discovery of quasicrystals--infinite, non-repeating ordered materials. Steve Mirsky reports

The 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to Daniel Schechtman of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Schechtman discovered what are called quasicrystals. Sven Lidin of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on the atoms and clusters within a quasicrystal: “It is perfectly ordered, it is infinite—and yet it never repeats itself.”

Such patterns can be seen in Islamic mosaics and the tilings of mathematical physicist Roger Penrose. “Daniel Schechtman’s discovery was to show that they existed also in chemical systems…the most important thing about the quasicrystals are their meaning for fundamental science. They have rewritten the first chapter in the textbooks of ordered matter.

“But we also find them in useful objects…they have been used in experiments to strengthen turbine blades…these applications come out of the specific properties of quasicrystals, that they are poor conductors of heat…they have low friction and they have low adhesion properties.”

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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