The Rise of a Star

We have all faced failure in our lives. We are taught to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and move on to something new. But what if the biggest failure of your life was actually your biggest success. You can’t move on because you know you’re right, yet no one else believes you. In fact, you’re openly mocked by your peers, ostracised by the scientific community and told by your group leader that you’re a disgrace. 

This is precisely the situation that Dan Shechtman faced in 1982 when he discovered quasicrystals, or quasiperiodic crystals, a structure found in metal alloys that is ordered but not periodic, meaning the shapes are regular but do not repeat. This non-repetition means that, unlike all known crystals at that time, quasicrystals can have a five-fold rotational symmetry, a fact that turned chemistry on its head and lead to the backlash against Shechtman.


Although not known to exist in nature at that time, the non-repeating patterns can be found in Islamic tiles dating back hundreds of years, such as this example from the Darb-i Iman shrine in Isfahan, Iran built in the 1600s. In 2010 quasicrystals were found in mineral samples from a rock in a Russian river that is thought to be a meteorite that hit the earth some 15,000 years ago.

Although he discovered quasicrystals in 1982, their existence was so unbelievable at that time that Dr. Shechtman was ostracised by the scientific community, losing his job and the respect of those around him. His most outspoken critic was a two time Nobel laureate who is famously quoted as saying of Shechtman, “there is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.”

In the face of great pressure, Dr. Shechtman chose to stand up for what he knew to be true and spent nearly a decade working to convince the world of the existence of quasicrystals. He was finally vindicated when his findings were replicated by several other laboratories and, in 1992 the International Union of Crystallography changed the definition of crystals to include quasicrystals. Since then, over 100 types of quasicrystals have been discovered and in 2011 Dr. Shechtman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery he had made nearly 30 years earlier.


Professor Shechtman at the Thermo-Calc Software Booth

This year Dr. Shechtman is being recognised with a symposium honouring his work. The Shechtman International Symposium was organised by Flogen Technologies, a research and development firm that spans a variety of fields, including metallurgy, chemistry, environmental protection, information technology and business management. Driven by the company’s dynamic CEO, Dr Florian Kongoli, Flogen Technologies are working hard to bring attention to scientists around the world through their Star Outreach Program, an international non-profit organisation that hosts conferences and symposiums honouring scientists whose work promotes sustainable development.

The goal of the Star Outreach Program is not purely to bring attention to scientists, but rather to promote the need for sustainable development in society by honouring the scientists, technologists and engineers whose work supports a sustainable future.

Dr. Florian Kongoli explains the organisation’s mission on their website:

“Without scientists, technologists and engineers there is no short and long term sustainable future. Without them the world cannot function. Yet they are not properly acknowledged society-wide. They are the silent STARs of the society. For the sake of our sustainable future let’s bring proper acknowledgement to our scientists, technologists and engineers at a normal STAR level of our society.”

This year’s conference was held at the beautiful Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun All Inclusive Resort in Cancun, Mexico from 29 June – 04 July 2014, and focused on sustainable materials development and extraction. Thermo-Calc Software attended the conference and had a booth at the exhibition. We attend dozens of conferences and workshops every year as a way to stay in touch with our customers and continue to meet your needs. To find out if we’re going to be in your area, see the list of upcoming events on our website and stop by our booth when we’re near you.

Previous honourees include Dr. Derek J. Fray in 2011, Professor H.Y. Sohn in 2006 and Prof. Akira Yazawa in 2003.

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