Daniel Shechtman and Quasicrystals

Resources with Additional Information · Quasicrystals

Saul Perlmutter
Photo Courtesy of
Ames Laboratory

Daniel (Danny) Shechtman has won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for the discovery of quasicrystals".  Shechtman was on 'sabbatical from the Technion [with] a two-year stint in the United States at what's now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology'1 when he made his discovery.

'That 1982 discovery of crystalline materials whose atoms didn't line up periodically like every crystal studied during 70 years of modern crystallography is regarded as a revolutionary find that changed ideas about matter and its atomic arrangement. …

Shechtman was studying rapidly solidified aluminum alloys with a toolbox that included transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and neutron diffraction. The transmission electron microscopy revealed a structure that science said was impossible: a pattern that when rotated a full circle repeats itself 10 times.

In his notebook that day, Shechtman wrote "(10 Fold ???)." Later, he found the pattern was really a five-fold rotation, but that didn't show up in the first experiments.

"For 70 years until 1982, all crystals studied, hundreds of thousands of them, were found to be periodic," he said. "Only certain rotational symmetries are allowed in this periodic array and these are 1,2,3,4,6 and nothing else. This is why, when I saw the ten-fold rotational symmetry, I was so surprised." …

Shechtman is an Ames Laboratory associate scientist, an Iowa State professor of materials science and engineering, and the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. He is currently at the Technion in Haifa, Israel. The 70-year-old scientist joined Iowa State and the Ames Lab in 2004 and spends about four months a year in Iowa. He will return to Ames in mid-February.'1

Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about Danny Shechtman and quasicrystals is available in electronic documents and on the Web.


Metallic Phase with Long-Range Orientational Order and No Translational Symmetry; Physical Review Letters, Vol. 53, Issue 20: 1951-1953; November 12, 1984

Nuclear γ-ray resonance observations in an aluminum-based icosahedral quasicrystal; Physical Review B, Vol. 32, Issue 2:  1383-1385; July 15, 1985


Additional Web Pages:



Characterization Anomaly Leads to Nobel Prize

Quasicrystals, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Nobel Prize -- Discovery of Quasicrystals

Crystals of Golden Proportions

What are Quasicrystals, and What Makes Them Nobel-Worthy?

Quasicrystals explained: Announcement of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Interview with Professor Sven Lidin, Member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry (video)


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