Stockholm: Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman won the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals, a mosaic-like 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 initially faced strong objections from the scientific community, and even got him kicked out of his research group.

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.

He was studying a mix of aluminum and manganese in his microscope when he found a pattern -- similar to Islamic mosaics -- that never repeated itself and appeared contrary to the laws of nature.

 "His battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter," the academy said.

Since then, quasicrystals have been produced in laboratories and a Swedish company found them in one of the most durable kinds of steel, which is now used in products such as razor blades and thin needles made specifically for eye surgery, the citation said.

 Scientists are also experimenting with using quasicrystals in coatings for frying pans, heat insulation in engines, and in light-emitting devices called LEDs. They were discovered in nature for the first time in 2009, according to the citation.

"It feels wonderful," said Shechtman, a distinguished professor at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

(Agencies)