Nobel Prize awarded for ‘iPod science’

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A heck of a lot of science went into making the iPod and other digital music players work.

Two scientists whose research helped produce the small storage devices in MP3 players were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics this week.

Albert Fert, 69, from France, and Peter Grünberg, 68, from Germany, discovered a physical effect in 1988 that became known as giant magnetoresistance, or GMR, in which very weak changes in magnetism generate much larger changes in electrical resistance. The effect became ideal for designing digital memory systems and for miniaturising them on to ever smaller hard disks.

The first GMR readout head was launched in 1997 and the technology has since become standard.

“The MP3 and iPod industry would not have existed without this discovery,” said Borie Johansson of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences.