Israel’s 10th Nobel laureate off for Stockholm ceremony

Shechtman, 70, discovered in 1982 that atoms in rigid crystals can be packed together in unusual ways.

Nobel Prize Laureate Dan Shechtman 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Nobel Prize Laureate Dan Shechtman 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Dozens of European ambassadors to Israel met with Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate Prof. Dan Shechtman over the weekend to wish him luck before he leaves with his family for Stockholm on Monday to receive his prize. In addition to his delivery of lectures and attendance at symposia and receptions, the peak event will be the award ceremony and the gala ball on Saturday night.
Shechtman – a 70-year-old expert in materials science at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology – discovered in 1982 that atoms in rigid crystals can be packed together in unusual ways. This breakthrough led to the development of extremely strong materials from metal surgical tools and razor blades to diesel engines and as protective coatings and metal alloys. In addition, what have become known as quasiperiodic or quasicrystals, do not rust or become oxidized and have almost no surface friction.
The Tel Aviv-born scientist, who is also an associate of the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and professor at Iowa State University, found that atoms in crystals could be structured in an unrepeatable pattern that looked like the Arab-style floor mosaics. In fact, the structure was described as “the fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms.”
Married and the father of four, Shechtman earned his three degrees at the Technion.
He was on sabbatical almost three decades ago at the US National Bureau of Standards in Washington, DC, when he discovered the icosahedral phase, which opened the new field of quasiperiodic crystals.
During his sabbatical in the early 1980s at Johns Hopkins University, he discovered the icosahedral phase. He was amazed to discover – in an electron microscope – that the new crystal he had uncovered was symmetrical and could be turned around five times without looking different; this was considered “impossible” according to existing theory.
After his arrival, he will attend a reception by Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan and hold two press conferences. A few hours before receiving the prize, he will be hosted for Shabbat lunch by the chief rabbi of Sweden and meet members of the Jewish community.
Swedish businessmen have shown much interest in Shechtman, who, 25 years ago, initiated a course for entrepreneurs and mentored generations of graduates who became successful businesspeople.
Technion president Prof. Peretz Lavie will lecture in the Swedish capital to a group of Swedish entrepreneurs about the institute’s activities and its influence on the Israeli economy.
During the several days following the award ceremony, Shechtman will tour universities around Sweden giving lectures.