UK spintronics expert wins Millennium Technology Prize
Professor Stuart Parkin, a researcher in spintronics and pioneer of magneto-resistive random-access memory (MRAM) has been recognised by Technology Academy Finland with its 2014 Millennium Technology Prize.
Previous winners of the prize have included World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee and ethical stem cell pioneer Dr. Shinya Yamanaka.
Parkin’s fundamental research into spin-based electronics and MRAM is now recognised as critical for the development of mass storage media used in computing.
The British physicist’s work on magneto-resistive thin-film structures and the development of the giant magneto-resistance (GMR) spin-valve read head has resulted in dramatic increases in the storage capacity of magnetic disk drives.
These are the storage devices behind most internet based services such as cloud services, social networks, music and film distribution online.
Spintronics, where the magnetic spin of electrons rather than their charge to store bits, is the basis of the MRAM which Parkin proposed in 1995. This technology is based on magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) memory cells. The MTJ, a close cousin of the GMR spin valve, has become standard in hard disk drive read heads.
“I am very humbled and proud to have been awarded the prize, which is s a tremendous validation by the scientific community of my work and its impact on the world as a whole,” said Parkin, who is director of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics and Alexander von Humboldt Professor at Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg.
The one million euro prize will be presented at ceremony in Helsinki on 7 May.
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