Year & Category
2007 Nobel Prize in Physics (jointly with Albert Fert, France)
“For the discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance”
At the time of the award he worked at
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany
About his research
Weak forces, strong impact
Giant magnetoresistance (GMR) is based on a layer principle: two outer, magnetic layers (for example, made of iron) “communicate” with one another through an intermediate layer (for example, made of chromium) that is only a few nanometres thick. The effective magnetic forces are so weak that they can easily be changed by external influences. The GMR effect facilitated the development of highly responsive sensors that can read the minutest magnetic cells of the respective storage medium. IBM was able to present the first drive that used the GMR effect in 1997. Its discovery by Fert and Grünberg also opened the door for a new area of electronics called spintronics.
Spintronics exploits the intrinsic spin of the electron, which can be used to store information magnetically independently of whether electricity is switched on or off. In computing, for example, this could obviate the need for the boot process in the future. Spintronics is a key area of research at the Peter Grünberg Institute (PGI), which was formed in 2011 as a result of the amalgamation of the Institute of Solid State Research (IFF) and the Institute of Bio- and Nanosystems (IBN) and named after the 2007 Physics Nobel laureate. The new institute conducts research of the highest international standard in nine divisions – ranging from bioelectronics to theoretical nanoelectronics.