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Adjunct physics professor at MSU wins Nobel Prize

October 9, 2007

This year’s Nobel Prize for physics winners Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg’s research could potentially allow for more songs on an MP3 player or more memory on a laptop.

Fert, an MSU adjunct professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, along with Grunberg, discovered and pioneered a giant magnetoresistance field in 1988.

Wolfgang Bauer, the chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said this field is essential to pack information very densely and store it in a computer drive.

“Those hard drives would be impossible without giant magneto resistance,” Bauer said.

In 1990, Fert collaborated with three other MSU professors — Jack Bass, William Pratt and Peter Schroeder — because of their mutual interest in better understanding the physics of magnetic fields.

“Our relationship began after Peter Schroedor worked with Fert while he was on sabbatical,” said Pratt, a physics and astronomy professor.

“Because of MSU’s very state-of-the-art fabrication facilities, we were able to send samples of multilayer metals to aid in the research.”

According to a university relations press release, MSU students and faculty have traveled to Fert’s laboratory and vice versa to exchange ideas, conduct measurements, and produce samples, which has led to several scientific publications on the topic.

The goal is to get a better understanding of the effect that occurs when there is a change in a magnetic field on multilayer samples, Pratt said.

It can bring improvements to technologies such as creating bigger memory for computers.

“It’s really an amazing business,” he said.

“Now and in the future there will be a large technological need for sensing magnetic fields.”

Bauer said MSU professors also are world leaders.

“The Nobel Prize can only be split at most three ways. If the Nobel Prize could be split ten ways, there’s a good chance that our guys could have been in that,” he said.

Staff writer Joey Nowak contributed to this report.

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