Patrick McCray, “From Lab to iPod: A Story of Discovery and Commercialization in the Post–Cold War Era”

McCray traces the history of “giant magnetoresistance” (GMR)—a phenomenon resulting from the nature of electron spin—from its simultaneous discovery in 1988 by Peter Grünberg and Albert Fert (2007 Nobel Prize winners) through its commercial development and application within the electronics industry. Early on, engineers at IBM harnessed the basic science of GMR to develop a “spin valve” that dramatically improved the performance and size of their hard drives, a technology they licensed to all leading hard drive manufacturers, leading to a revolution in that particular industry. This early success lead to the perception within the broader electronics industry that GMR could be exploited in a wide array of portable electronics, dubbed “spintronics”. The result was broad industry involvement in engineering research, and U.S. government funding in the form of a large DARPA-funded project, and later the broader National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), focusing on applied physics and engineering, but often described—publicly and internally—as basic research.

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  1. […] the complex and multi-directional causation involved in the development of spintronics, see “From Lab to iPod” by Patrick McCray. Tagged with: cultural lags • innovation frameworks • linear […]

  2. […] McCray’s “From Lab to iPod” details the development of “spintronics,” an early nanotechnology that found great success […]

  3. […] the complex and multi-directional causation involved in the development of spintronics, see “From Lab to iPod” by Patrick McCray. Tagged with: cultural lags • innovation frameworks • linear […]

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