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2011 Nobel prize in Chemistry — Discovery of quasicrystals

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Scanning Electron Microscopy of a quasicrystal, clearly showing the five-fold symmetry

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 was awarded to Dan Shechtman "for the discovery of quasicrystals".

In 1982, the first diffraction image with five-fold symmetry was obtained by Dan Shechtman using electron microscopy. However, this five-fold symmetry found in quasi-crystals was considered at that time impossible and Dan Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science. In all solid matter, atoms were indeed believed to be packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns that were repeated periodically over and over again, an order not compatible with a five-fold symmetry. For scientists, this repetition was required in order to obtain a crystal.

The ground for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 has fundamentally altered how chemists conceive solid matter. In 1992 the International Union of Crystallography gave a new definition of a crystal : a material which is organized periodically or a-periodically, and which can exhibit discrete diffraction signals.

Since the beginning of this discovery, scientists from Institut NEEL, along with other Grenoble scientists from ILL and SIMAP, contributed to this scientific debate based on experimental and theoretical work. Our focus was the investigation of electronic properties (eg conductivity and magnetism).


- Home page of the 2011 Nobel prize in Chemistry
- The adventure of quasicrystals : a sucessful multidisciplinary effort : an article from Europhysics News (Sep.2012).
- International Union of Crystallography
- Materials science at Institut Néel
- References from now-Institut NEEL : Evidence of a spin-glass transition in the quasicrystal Al73Mn21Si6, C. Berger and J. J. Prejean, Phys. Rev. Lett. 64, 1769 (1990) ; Evidence for unconventional electronic transport in quasicrystals, D. Mayou, C. Berger, F. Cyrot-Lackmann, T. Klein, and P. Lanco, Phys. Rev. Lett. 70, 3915 (1993).

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