Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman has been named as the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry, the award panel for the prestigious prize announced Wednesday. He was awarded the prize for his discovery of patterns in atoms called quasicrystals, a chemical structure that researchers previously thought was impossible.
Tel Aviv-born Shechtman, 70, is a professor at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, as well as an Associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, and a professor at Iowa State University.
The Nobel Committee for Chemistry at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman had discovered quasicrystals, which it said were like “fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms” and which never repeated themselves.
Up until then, scientists had thought the atom patterns inside crystals had to repeat themselves. The Academy said Shechtman’s discovery in 1982 fundamentally changed the way chemists look at solid matter.
Shechtman’s discovery opened the door for experiments in the use of the quasicrystals in everything from diesel engines to frying pans.
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