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UC Santa Barbara Researcher Reflects on 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics

Courtesy of the NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society, University of California-Santa Barbara

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics to Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg for their discovery of giant magnetoresistance (GMR).  GMR is the process whereby a small magnetic field can trigger a large change in electrical resistance.  This discovery is at the heart of modern hard drive technology, and it has stimulated the manufacture of a new generation of electronics.

The announcement of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics generated considerable interest for CNS researcher and UC Santa Barbara historian W. Patrick McCray.  For the past two years, McCray and his colleagues Timothy Lenoir (Duke University) and Cyrus Mody (Rice University) have studied the history of nanoelectronics.  The recent news from Stockholm helped demonstrate the relevance of their work for understanding the societal impact of nanotechnologies.

“It is very exciting,” McCray said, “that the Swedish Academy cited this year’s physics prize as one of the first major applications of nanotechnology.  This should remind people that everyday objects we use already incorporate sophisticated nanoscale devices.”

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