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Prestigious Israeli Award for Peter Grünberg

[15. Januar 2007]

Jülich, 15 January 2007 - Israel's world-famous "Wolf Prize" has been awarded this year to Prof. Peter Grünberg from Research Centre Jülich. He will share the prize money of roughly € 100,000 in the field of physics with Prof. Albert Fert from the Université Paris-Sud. The prize will be presented in the Knesset by the Israeli president in May. Only last week, the two laureates were honoured by the "Japan Prize" with prize money of approx. € 350,000.

The two solid-state physicists received the prize for their discovery of giant magnetoresistance. The discovery of this effect led in the nineties to a breakthrough in gigabyte hard disks. In 1998 Peter Grünberg was awarded the Future Prize of the German Federal President for this discovery, in 2006 the prize for European Inventor of the Year by the European Commission and in 2007 the Stern-Gerlach Medal of the German Physics Society. Grünberg's work laid the foundations for the field of spintronics, which exploits the quantum mechanical spin of electrons for micro- and nanoelectronics.

As the basis for their decision, the jury cited the fact the Grünberg and Fert's work "launched a new field of research and applications known as spintronics". "In the technological arena the GMR has completely revolutionized the magnetic recording industry" is the jury's verdict in the citation published by the Wolf Foundation, which awards the Wolf Prizes annually in six categories. The prize will be presented to the researchers by the President of the State of Israel in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on 13 May 2007. Former prize winners include Stephen Hawking, Mitchell Feigenbaum, Peter W. Higgs and the Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft.

Grünberg's giant magnetoresistance (GMR) effect is now found in more than 90 per cent of hard disks produced today. The GMR effect enables data to be read out very precisely. These data are stored tightly packed in small areas of different magnetization. A sensor that makes use of the GMR effect registers these tiny differences as a large measurable change and is therefore able to function in a highly sensitive manner. This fact was recognized very rapidly by industry. The first GMR read head for computer hard disks came onto the market in 1997. Exploitation of the GMR effect has led to eight-figure earnings from royalties for Research Centre Jülich. The GMR effect has long been integrated into improved read heads for hard disks, videotapes and in MP3 players all over the world.

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