Quasicrystals: a brief history of the impossible
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The 30-year history of quasicrystals is one in which, time after time, the conventional scientific view about what is possible has been proven wrong. First, quasicrystals were thought to be mathematically impossible; then, physically impossible; then, impossible unless synthesised in the laboratory under carefully controlled conditions. One by one, these strongly held views have been disproven, the last only recently as the result of the discovery of a natural quasicrystal found in a meteorite dating back to the formation of the solar system. This paper is a brief personal perspective on this history of misunderstanding and discovery.
KeywordsQuasicrystals Icosahedral symmetry Diffraction Icosahedrite
I wish to thank the Accademia dei Lincei and the organizers of the X-ray diffraction centenary for the invitation and generous hospitality. This paper describes research spanning more than 30 years that is too broad in scope to name all those to who deserve recognition. In addition to those named in the text, I would like to acknowledge the University of Pennsylvania, its material research laboratory, and particularly Tom Lubensky, Eli Burstein, Anthony Garito, Paul Heiney and Paul Chaikin for extraordinary support and encouragement during the very early days when the ideas seemed unreasonably risky. Praveen Chaudhari and the Thomas J. Watson IBM research laboratory also provided key support. There are many others who contributed in important ways to this field but who have not been included; I ask for their understanding given the limited length and selection of topics. Although the paper is intended to represent a personal perspective, only statements supported by documentation (available on request) plus living witnesses have been included to insure fidelity. This work is supported in part by the by the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program through New York University Grant DMR-0820341.
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