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Israeli scientist wins Nobel Prize in chemistry

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Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Daniel Shechtman becomes the third Israeli to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and the 10th Israeli to win a Nobel.

Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his controversial discovery of non-repeating patterns in atoms called quasicrystals.

He is the third Israeli to win the award in chemistry, and the 10th Israeli to win a prestigious Nobel Prize in the country’s 63-year history.

The Nobel Committee for Chemistry at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman, a professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, had discovered quasicrystals, that appeared to be like “fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms” and which never repeated themselves.

Shechtman, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1941, had to fight hard for his science. He received his undergraduate and post-graduate degrees from the Technion, and joined the faculty in 1975.

It was while he was on sabbatical at John Hopkins University and working with the National Bureau of Standards in 1982 that he discovered a startling anomaly in the atom patterns of a quasicrystal, a metallic alloy.

Until this discovery, scientists believed that atom patterns inside quasicrystals had to repeat themselves symmetrically. The atoms that Shechtman saw through his electron microscope, however, were packed in a pattern that could not be repeated.

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