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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nobel Awarded for Technology Behind iPod

STOCKHOLM -- France's Albert Fert and Germany's Peter Gr?nberg won the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for a discovery that has shrunk the size of hard disks found in computers, iPods and other digital devices.

The duo discovered a totally new physical effect that has let the computer industry develop sensitive reading tools for information stored on computer hard drives, from the tiniest laptops to feature-rich portable music and video players.

"The MP3 and iPod industry would not have existed without this discovery," said Borje Johansson, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In its citation, the academy said the discovery could also be considered "one of the first real applications of the promising field of nanotechnology," the science dedicated to building materials from the molecular level.

"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 the development of a new generation of electronics."

Fert, 69, is the scientific director of the Mixed Unit for Physics at CNRS/Thales, while Gr?nberg, 68, is a professor at the Institute of Solid State Research in western Germany.

In 1988, the pair independently discovered the physical effect known as giant magnetoresistance. In this effect, very weak changes in magnetism generate larger changes in electrical resistance. This is how information stored magnetically on a disk can be converted to electrical signals that the computer reads.

"I can hardly think of an application that has a bigger bang than the magnetic hard drive industry," said Phil Schewe, a spokesman for the American Institute of Physics. "Every one of us probably owns three or four or five devices, probably more, that depend on billions of bits of information stored on something the size of a dime."