Technology & Science

German, Frenchman share 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics

France's Albert Fert and German Peter Gruenberg have won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics for a discovery that lets computer users store reams of data on computer hard drives.

France's Albert Fert and German Peter Gruenberg won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for a discovery that lets billions of computer users store reams of data on computer hard drives.

France's Albert Fert talks to journalists after learning he will share the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics with Germany's Peter Gruenberg. ((Michel Euler/Associated Press))

The technology "can also be considered one of the first real applications of the promising field of nanotechnology," which deals with extremely small devices, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in its citation.

"Applications of this phenomenon have revolutionized techniques for retrieving data from hard disks," the prize citation said. "The discovery also plays a major role in various magnetic sensors as well as for the development of a new generation of electronics."

In 1988, Fert and Gruenberg — who was a postdoctoral fellow of the National Research Council of Canada at Ottawa's Carleton Universityfrom 1969-72 in the department of chemistry — each independently discovered a physical effect called giant magnetoresistance.

In this effect, very weak changes in magnetism generate larger changes in electrical resistance. This is how information stored magnetically on a hard disk can be converted to electrical signals that the computer reads.

Nobel Prize winner Peter Gruenberg is seen at the Juelich research centre in Juelich, western Germany, during a media conference on Tuesday. ((Frank Augstein/Associated Press))

"The development of computers showed in the last years that this was an important contribution," Gruenberg told Sweden's TV4 channel shortly after being told he was sharing the prize with Fert.

Last year, Americans John C. Mather and George F. Smoot won for their work examining the infancy of the universe, studies that have aided the understanding of galaxies and stars and increased support for the Big Bang theory of the beginning of the universe.

On Monday, twoU.S. scientists, Mario R. Capecchi and Oliver Smithies, and Briton Sir Martin J. Evans won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Medicine for groundbreaking discoveries that led to a powerful technique for manipulating mouse genes.

Prizes for chemistry, literature,peace and economics will be announced through Oct. 15.

The peace award is announced in Oslo, while the other prizes are announced in Stockholm.Theprizes carry a cashaward of $1.5 million, and all but the economicsprizewere established in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. The Nobel Memorial Prize in economics isfunded by the Bank of Sweden andwas instituted in 1968.

The Nobel Prizes are always presented to the winners on the Dec. 10 anniversary of the death of its creator.

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