Nobel Prize in Chemistry to quasicrystals – mosaic of atoms

Nobel Prize in Chemistry to quasicrystals

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has just been awarded to Daniel Shechtman from Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, for his discovery of ‘quasicrystals’ – a new field of science, where Chemistry, Physics and other sciences meet.

From the finding Chemistry has learned only certain symmetries are allowed in the repeating patterns of atoms. The atoms in a crystal can be packed in a pattern that could not be repeated – which is not the case under full symmetry, the order scientists had assumed.

According to the Nobel committee the discovery can solely be attributed to Professor Shechtman – who has conducted research for years among much scepticism from colleagues.

Shechtman made his discovery already in 1982.

The Physical world of Chemistry

It’s not the first time Nobel Prizes for Chemistry and Physics seem to intermingle. Althought yesterday the Physics Prize went to clear-cut astronomy, last year’s Physics Nobel Prize in turn had a clear Chemistry component.

More Chemistry Nobel Prizes

Two years ago Ada Yonath, another Israeli scientist, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. That was for research of ribosomes’ function – with important ramifications for antibiotics, which sounds worthy of a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Perhaps winners aren’t random, but the exact categories they fall in are a bit obscure. A century ago the committee had a very similar problem and found a very elegant solution for Marie Curie: can’t chose? Pick two. It is exactly 100 years ago that she received her 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, among other acievements for the discovery of radium and polonium – naming that last element after her native country.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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