News Release

Nobel prize in physics for Helmholtz scientist

Grant and Award Announcement

Helmholtz Association

Stockholm/Jülich, 9 October 2007 – The Nobel Prize in Physics goes to the German solid state physicist Prof. Dr. Peter Grünberg from the Helmholtz Research Centre in Jülich. Grünberg shares the award with his colleague Albert Fert (Paris-Sud University) for the discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance. In 1988, both scientists discovered this physical effect independently of each other.

„Peter Grünberg is an excellent basic researcher and has contributed substantially to the understanding of complex magnetic materials. At the same time, he quickly understood what a great benefit his discovery could be to the economy and ensured that it was speedily transformed into a market-dominating innovation,” says Prof. Dr. Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association. The Giant Magnetoresistance is a quantum effect, which appears in layered structures of magnetic materials. The effect is used today in nearly every hard disk read-out head, as it allows the storage of extremely densely-packed information. The storage capacity of hard disks has therefore increased way beyond the gigabyte barrier since the mid 1990s. In addition, Grünberg’s discovery laid the groundwork for the new research field of spintronics, which exploits the quantum spin states of electrons for usage in micro as well as nanoelectronics. “The fact that Grünberg has now received the Nobel Prize does not only please me personally, but also shows that the Helmholtz Association provides an excellent working environment for extraordinary researchers,” says Mlynek.

Peter Grünberg was born 1939 in Pilsen (now Czech Republic). Following his studies and doctorate in Darmstadt and a three-year research stay in Canada, the scientist has been working at the Forschungszentrum Jülich since 1972. He has already received several internationally renowned prizes for his work: in 1998 he was awarded the “Zukunftspreis” (Future Prize) from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 2006 he was honoured as “European Inventor of the Year”. In 2007 Grünberg received the Stern Gerlach Medal, the Israeli Wolf Foundation Prize and also the Japan Prize in the category “Innovation through Basic Research”, worth 300,000 euros.


The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research areas: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Transport and Space. With 25,700 employees in 15 research centres and an annual budget of approximately 2.3 billion euro, the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).

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