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|Posted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:30 pm Post subject: European nano pioneers win physics Nobel
|10 October 2007 FT.com
European nano pioneers win physics Nobel
Two Europeans have won this year’s Nobel physics prize for a nanotechnology discovery that has led to the miniaturisation of hard disks in laptop computers and music players.
Albert Fert of Université Paris-Sud in France and Peter Grünberg of Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany share the $1.54m prize for discovering the phenomenon known as giant magnetoresistance, or GMR. It makes it possible to read data that is densely packed on to the surface of a magnetic disk.
The two laureates observed the effect independently in the late 1980s. The first commercial read-out using GMR was launched in 1997 and it soon became standard technology.
According to the Nobel citation from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, GMR “can be considered one of the first real applications of the promising field of nanotechnology.”
Jim Al-Khalili, physics professor at the University of Surrey, commented: “It’s no good having computer hard drives that can store gigabites of information if we can’t access it. The technology that has appeared thanks to the discovery of GMR has allowed hard disk sensors to read and write much more data, allowing for bigger memory, cheaper and more reliable computers.”
Prof Al-Khalili added: “GMR is one of those wonderful phenomena from the weird world of quantum physics that has been put to use very quickly. It involves very thin layers of different magnetic materials and the way they allow tiny electric currents to pass through them.”
A research team led by Stuart Parkin at IBM’s Almaden Research Centre in California played a key role in turning the GMR discovery into a practical device for the electronics industry.