Dan Shechtman

Winner of The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011


  • Born: January 24th, 1941 (age 74), Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Died: Still alive, so not dead yet
  • Education: Mechanical Engineering at Technion
  • Place of Work: Professor of Technological Entrepreneurship at Technion
  • Scientific Field of Study: Physical chemistry, structural chemistry
  • Interesting Facts: Ran for President of Israel & was inspired to become an engineer by Jules Vernes' The Mysterious Island

What Did They Do?

How did he discover quasicrystals?
  • Date of Discovery: April 8, 1982
  • Used electron microscope
  • Discovered while studying a molten mixture of aluminum and manganese

Results of the Study

  • Crystal structures were always expected to be symmetrical.
  • However, Dan found out that crystals could be put into patterns that can't be repeated.
  • So, instead of the usual 4-fold and 3-fold symmetrical structures, Shectman found out that quasicrystals had 5-fold, or pentagonal structures, which don't follow any symmetry.
  • Quasicrystals have regular patterns, but they never repeat.

So What Do Crystals Look Like?

Not Everyone is a Winner- Just Dan Shechtman

A couple of reasons:

1. He basically challenged the very definition of a "crystal"

  • Everyone else: "5 fold symmetry (i.e atoms that make cool pentagon shapes) can't work because they don't fit together like cubes or triangles do!"
  • Dan: "What about quasicrystals?"
  • Everyone else: "I guess that works too."

2. He went to great pains to make his research known

  • His boss actually tried to throw him out of the lab but Dan persevered!

3. Quasicrystals actually can be used for stuff (Who knew?)

  • Surgical instruments
  • LED lights
  • Non-stick frying pans (how else are you going to make pancakes?)
  • Strengthening steel
  • Good insulator

Some Interesting Things Dan Shechtman Has Said Over the Years

“I didn’t want to go into politics. I wanted to become the president of Israel. I thought that the president should be disconnected from politics. This is of course not what happened." (maybe he should just stick to chemistry)

"My childhood dream was to study mechanical engineering. After reading 'The Mysterious Island' - which I read 25 times as a boy - I thought that was the best thing a person could do..." (looks like reading actually does help!)

"Wherever I go in the world, I'm treated like royalty." (That's probably why his boss tried to kick him out of the lab)

"I always say that people are like peanut shells on the ocean..." (...what?)