Prof Dan Shechtman is the first person to discover quasicrystals. Quasicrystals are the crystals found in the atoms of metals that are structured in certain pattern, however unlike a normal crystal, they do not repeat their patterns.
Dan Shechtman is born on January 24, 1941 in Tel Aviv, Israel. He has received the Nobel Prize 2011 for his discovery of the chemical structure called as the quasicrystals.
Dan Shechtman faced lot of controversies and ridicules initially when he first discovered the quasicrystals. A lot of questions were raised with his invention.
Dan Shechtman decided to lay all the queries to rest by proving his point.
What are Quasicrystals?
In every metal, atoms are arranged in a typical symmetrical form. Dan Shechtman discovered that the atoms had crystal structures in frozen gobbets of metal that had beautiful patterns, similar to those found on Islamic mosaics. He found that the atoms were arranged in such a way that they broke the rules of how crystals are formed and altered the views of other scientists.
It was always believed that metals had crystallised materials were usually made up of unit cells of atoms that are repeated to form a single uniform structure. However, Dan Shechtman was busy examining a rapidly cooled metal alloy. He found that the atoms packed in this alloy were in a pattern that could not be repeated. He named these structures as quasicrystals.
The quasicrystals are found in almost every metal and these quasicrystals have an uneven structure which means they do not have obvious cleavage planes thereby making them particularly hard in nature.
According to Prof Dan Shechtman, quasicrystals are likely to be used in protective coatings and future alloys.
Scientists all over the world believed that metals contained atoms that repeated their patterns. For instance a square lattice has fourfold symmetry. No matter how you rotate it, it will look identical. The symmetry stays the same and the fourfold cannot turn into fivefold. However, Dan Shechtman discovered a new dimension called as quasicrystals and found out that the symmetry can possibly change. With this discovery, the definition of crystals had to be changed.
A crystal ideally meant something that was regularly ordered and repeated its dimension pattern. However, quasicrystals do not repeat their pattern and the new definition states a solid with discrete diffraction diagram. In other words, a solid that produces different patterns similar to the ones that Dan Shechtman saw.
Here is a video showing an interview with Prof Dan Shechtman.
How Quasicrystals are going to change our life?
With the discovery of quasicrystals, a lot of changes are sure to happen in our everyday life. There are many such crystals which will be discovered in near future for different metals. For example our day-to-day applications may change. For example, at present one of the steel forms is used to prepare razor blades and thin needles for eye surgery. With quasicrystals, there is a likelihood of possible merge of applications in near future to make our life simpler and easier.
Prof Dan Shechtman describes the quasicrystals as the most beautiful and potential protective layer in alloys and coatings in various applications. This discovery is truly a celebration of fundamental research.