Nadia Drake | Mar. 5, 2014 | Wired
Quasicrystals have teased and intrigued scientists for three decades. Now, this already strange group of materials has a bizarre new member: a two-dimensional quasicrystal made from self-assembling organic molecules.
This odd quasicrystal is flat, made from a single layer of molecules with five-sided rings. The molecules form groups within the layer as weak hydrogen bonds link them together. These molecular groups are assembled in a way that forces other molecules in the layer into shapes including pentagons, stars, boats, and rhombi. If this were a regular old crystal, you’d expect to see these groups and shapes repeated over and over throughout the layer in a predictable way. But in this quasicrystal, you’ll see the same shapes over and over in the layer, but not in any organized pattern.
“They’re markedly different from just about everything else out there,” said physical chemist Alex Kandel, whose lab at the University of Notre Dame described the material today in Nature. Previously known quasicrystals are mostly metallic, and tied together by strong ionic bonds rather than the weaker hydrogen bonds that can be found in complex organic molecules like DNA.