The forbidden beauty of quasicrystals

McGrath, Rónán; Grimm, Uwe and Diehl, Renee D. (2004). The forbidden beauty of quasicrystals. Physics World, 17(12) pp. 23–27.



Twenty years ago last month Danny Shechtman of the Technion Institute in Israel announced the discovery of a new metallic alloy. At the time Shechtman had been on sabbatical leave at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington DC, investigating the properties of mixtures of metals that had been melted together and rapidly cooled. He found that one of these alloys – aluminium manganese – displayed a diffraction pattern with 10-fold rotational symmetry. However, such symmetries were supposed to be forbidden by the laws of crystallography.

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