When Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman first saw a quasicrystal through his microscope in 1982, he reportedly thought to himself, “Eyn chaya kazoo” (“There can be no such creature”). But there is, and the quasicrystal has become a subject of much research in the 35 years since Shechtman’s Nobel Prize-winning discovery.
What makes quasicrystals so interesting? It’s their unusual structure: Atoms in quasicrystals are arranged in an orderly but non-periodic way. Most crystals are made up of a three-dimensional, orderly and periodic (repeating) arrangement of atoms. The lab of Uli Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin professor of engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at Cornell University, has joined scientists pursuing this relatively new area of study. Much like Shechtman, who discovered quasicrystals while studying diffraction patterns of aluminum-manganese crystals, Wiesner came upon quasicrystals a bit by accident.