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The quasicrystal that fell to Earth

The 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Dan Schechtman for his discovery of quasicrystals, materials that do not have the regular lattice structure of crystalline solids. Schechtman produced quasicrystals in the laboratory in 1982, but until 2008 nobody had found a naturally occurring quasicrystal. Now researchers in Italy and the United States have examined the rock that contained these natural quasicrystals and determined it may actually be part of a meteorite.

Normal crystalline solids have atoms or molecules arranged in cubes, hexagons, or other regular repeating patterns. Quasicrystals exhibit different symmetries that never precisely repeat: pentagons, icosahedrons, and so forth. Schechtman and researchers after him produced these quasi-periodic lattices by melting materials under high pressure, then cooling them quickly in a process known as quenching.

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