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STOCKHOLM (AP) — Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for a discovery that faced skepticism and mockery, even prompting his expulsion from his research team, before it won widespread acceptance as a fundamental breakthrough.
While doing research in the U.S. in 1982, Shechtman discovered a new chemical structure — quasicrystals — that researchers previously thought was impossible.
He was studying a mix of aluminum and manganese in an electron microscope when he found the atoms were arranged in a pattern — similar to one in some traditional Islamic mosaics — that never repeated itself and appeared contrary to the laws of nature.
He concluded that science was wrong — but it would take years for him and other researchers to prove that he was right.
Since then, quasicrystals have been produced in laboratories and a Swedish company found them in one of the most durable kinds of steel, which is now used in products such as razor blades and thin needles made specifically for eye surgery, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. Quasicrystals are also being studied for use in new materials that convert heat to electricity. They were first discovered in nature in Russia in 2009.
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