Nobel Week Dialogue

Photo schechtman

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011. Dan Shechtman received the prize for discovering quasicrystals. Today his research interests are centered on studying the structure and properties of new magnesium alloys.

Dan Shechtman is a professor at the department of materials science and engineering at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering quasicrystals, a crystal with five-fold symmetry that was thought to be impossible.

He earned his PhD in materials science at Technion in Haifa where he worked on microstructural changes in titanium alloys during fatigue loading. During his PhD he also first encountered—the transmission electron microscope, or TEM.

Shechtman then moved to the Aerospace Research Laboratories at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio where he used his TEM skills to study compounds of the metals aluminum and titanium with the goal of developing strong, lightweight materials for aircraft components.

Since 1975 Shechtman has been back in Haifa when he took on a permanent position at Technion.

At Technion Shechtman continued to study rapidly solidified materials with transmission electron microscopy. He pioneered an electrochemical technique to slice powders produced by rapid solidification into thin sheets that he could study with the TEM. From 1981 to 1983 he was on sabbatical at the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied rapidly solidified aluminum transition metal alloys. During this study he discovered the icosahedral phase which opened the new field of quasiperiodic crystals.

Today Shechtman’s research interests are centered on developing, studying and understanding the structure, mechanical properties and bio-corrosion of new magnesium alloys. These alloys have important applications as biodegradable implants such as stents and surgical staples, as well as structural materials for aerospace and other light structures.

Since receiving the Nobel Prize, Shechtman undertakes outreach activities to promote science education to young children and promote the teaching of technological entrepreneurship in universities.