Physicist Peter Grünberg, Nobel Prize Winner Who Ushered the Smartphone Era, Dies at 78

Technology > IT

Peter Grünberg, German physicist, and Nobel Prize in Physics. Photo by Forschungszentrum Jülich via Wikimedia Commons


Nobel Prize-winning German physicist Peter Grünberg, honored for his discovery on storing large amounts of data by manipulating the electrical and magnetic fields of thin layers of atoms, ushering a breakthrough in gigabyte hard disk drives, has died at the age of 78. 

The announcement of his death came from Juelich Research Center located in Germany. It was also in this interdisciplinary research center where he worked as a longtime researcher. No further details were published by the center.

In 2007, Dr. Grünberg was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics with Albert Fert for their discovery of giant magnetoresistance. Both have independently created the same discovery, detailing how tiny changes in the magnetic field may result in a huge transformation in the electrical resistance. This giant magnetoresistance effect is now in the heart of modern devices that record data, video, and music. It also made possible the creation of smartphones, electronic tablets, and GPS devices in our handbags and pockets.

When the Nobel was announced, Swedish Royal Academy’s Börje Johansson said, “The MP3 and iPod industry would not have existed without this discovery.” Juelich institute also said, “Without exaggeration, one can say Peter Grünberg and his discovery of giant magnetoresistance decisively changed our lives.” Further, the institute said that without him, modern smartphones and computers as we now know would be “unthinkable.”