Fall MRS 2012: Quasicrystals go mainstream

Posted on behalf of Ros Daw, Senior Editor, Nature


It’s MRS time again and this year the meeting is bigger than ever with 52 symposia running in parallel. As an editor, it’s a painful task identifying which sessions to attend, knowing all the other potentially interesting talks that I will not be able to see. The MRS is attempting to address this for attendees by videoing many sessions to be made available online for viewing. So now I just need to find another 5 days to watch them all!

On Monday night I saw Dan Shechtman’s inspirational plenary lecture (1) describing the discovery of quasicrystals and his battles with the crystallography community — and with Linus Pauling — to get his ideas accepted. As quasicrystals are now appearing in all manner of materials systems, Shechtman’s talk emphasised the importance to researchers entering the field to go that extra mile to unambiguously confirm that they have truly seen a quasicrystal and not some other less interesting structural artefact.

A session the following morning in Symposium U: Colloidal Crystals, Quasicrystals, Assemblies, Jammings, and Packings explored the emerging field of soft aperiodic crystals. Two presenters described 18-fold symmetries in block copolymer micelles (2) (experimental data) and hard-core/square-shoulder particles (3) (Monte-Carlo simulations), symmetries which have yet to be seen in ‘conventional’ hard quasicrystals. Theorists are working hard to identify the mechanisms underlying the formation of such structures in soft matter and this subfield is growing rapidly — it is definitely one to watch.

(1) Quasicrystals: Discovery, Structure, Properties and Uses; Danny Shechtman; Plenary Session; 2012 Fall MRS.
(2) Quasicrystalline Lyotropic Phases; Stephan Foerster, Alexander Exner, Peter Lindner, Jan Perlich; Symposium U; 2012 Fall MRS.
(3) Quasicrystals Formed by Hard-core/Square-shoulder Particles; Tomonari Dotera, Tatsuya Oshiro, Primoz Ziherl; Symposium U; 2012 Fall MRS.