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A Nobel Prize for Storage

In what's surely a first for storage technology, two European scientists have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on disk drive technology. Frenchman Albert Fert, 68, and German Peter Grnberg, 69, will jointly share the $1.5 million award for discovering, separately, the Giant Magnetoresistance or GMR effect in 1988.

Fert works at France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research); Grünberg, at Germany's Research Centre Jülich.

By illuminating the interaction between magnetic and electrical signals when reading data from hard disks, the GMR research paved the way for miniaturization of disk drives in iPods, laptops, and other consumer devices. In awarding the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted that the winners also contributed to the study of nanotechnology, since GMR has led to the use of atom-width layers of substrate for disk read-out heads.

Needless to say, the research points as well to the ongoing search for smaller, faster disk drives – a search that's fundamental to the growth of data storage in any form.

Suppliers continue to push advances in this area. Fujitsu, for one, is at work on technology that could increase the capacity of today's largest, fastest disk drives by a factor of eight.

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