Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR) was independently discovered in 1988 in Fe/Cr/Fe trilayers by a research team led by Peter Grünberg of the Jülich Research Centre, who owns the patent, and in Fe/Cr multilayers by the group of Albert Fert of the University of Paris-Sud, who first saw the large effect in multilayers that led to its naming, and first correctly explained the underlying physics.
Very weak magnetic changes give rise to major differences in electrical resistance in a GMR system. A system of this kind is the perfect tool for reading data from hard disks when information registered magnetically has to be converted to electric current.
Soon researchers and engineers began work to enable use of the effect in read-out heads. In 1997 the first read-out head based on the GMR effect was launched and this soon became the standard technology. Even the most recent read-out techniques of today are further developments of GMR.
Grünberg and Fert have received a number of prestigious prizes and awards for their discovery and contributions to the field of spintronics, including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2007.
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to ALBERT FERT and PETER GRÜNBERG for their discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance. Applications of this phenomenon have revolutionized techniques for retrieving data from hard disks. The discovery also plays a major role in various magnetic sensors as well as for the development of a new generation of electronics. The use of Giant Magnetoresistance can be regarded as one of the first major applications of nanotechnology.
The two scientists are awarded 10 million Swedish kronor (€1.1 million) which is to be split equally amongst them.