Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman won the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry today for his discovery of quasicrystals, a chemical structure that researchers previously thought was impossible. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman's discovery in 1982 fundamentally changed the way chemists look at solid matter. "It feels wonderful," said Shechtman, a distinguished professor at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
Contrary to the previous belief that atoms were packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns, Shechtman showed that the atoms in a crystal could be packed in a pattern that could not be repeated, the academy said—a finding so controversial that he was asked to leave his research group. Quasicrystals were discovered in nature for the first time in 2009. "His battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter," the academy said. The announcement caps this year's science awards. (Read more Nobel Prize stories.)