Israeli scientist Daniel Schectman was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday.
The discovery, made in 1982, changed the way chemists look at solid matter.
"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.
"His discovery was extremely controversial. In the course of defending his findings, he was asked to leave his research group. However, his battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter," it said.
Shechtman is a distinguished professor at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.