"It's just an esoteric, weird type of physics, but a force that can be exploited to make valuable products," Schewe said.
"This is a wonderful example of how an accidental scientific discovery can have an extraordinary impact in technology—a marked increase in magnetic storage for information processing," added David Awschalom, a professor of physics and electrical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Future storage devices might also be inspired by giant magnetoresistance, which relies on a property of electrons called spin.
Scientists are now exploring how to use spin to create new kinds of circuits and electronics, a field known as "spintronics."
"The increasing interest in semiconductor spintronics—our field—has partly also been inspired by the success of the GMR and its consequences," said physicist Manfred Ramsteiner of Paul Drude Institute in Berlin, Germany.
Fert and Grünberg will equally split the prize of 10 million Swedish kronor (about 1.5 million U.S. dollars).
Last year U.S. scientists John C. Mather and George F. Smoot won the Nobel Prize in Physics for research that helped solidify the big bang theory of the origin of the universe.
And yesterday three scientists— Mario R. Capecchi and Oliver Smithies of the United States and Sir Martin J. Evans of Britain—won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work on manipulating mouse genes to improve studies of genetic diseases.
The Nobel prizes have been awarded since 1901 based on the will of chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite.
The 2007 prizes in chemistry, literature, peace, and economics will be announced over the next two weeks.
The awards will be officially presented on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.
Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES