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April 10, 2014

British scientist awarded ‘Tech Nobel’ for pioneering data storage research

Work by Dr. Stuart Parkin led to a 1000-fold rise in magnetic-disk capacity.

By CBR Staff Writer

Stuart Parkin

Prof Dr. Stuart Parkin, one of Britain’s leading technology innovators, has been presented with a prestigous award for his research on spintronics, which led to a 1000-fold rise in magnetic-disk capacity.

The Technology Academy of Finland awarded Parkin, who is also an IBM Fellow at Almaden, the €1m (£824,000) Millennium Technology Prize in recognition of his major contribution to the science and application of spintronic materials, which are an important part of every hard-disk drive made and sold today.

"Parkin’s achievements have greatly facilitated the occurrence of the ‘big data’ revolution and significantly transformed human access to knowledge," said the prize’s selection committee in a statement.

Parkin now joins a prestiguous list of winners including Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Linux creator Linus Torvalds.Technology Academy Finland CEO Juha Yla-Jaaski said that the innovations of Prof. Parkin led to a revolutionary growth in digital information storage capacity.

"Prof. Parkin’s innovations represent the true spirit and every aspect of the Millennium Technology Prize: groundbreaking innovations opening up possibilities to totally new services which address a large audience and improve the quality of life," Jaaski said.

"Furthermore, in the future Prof. Parkin’s innovations may pave the way to a totally new era in computing with dramatically increased capacity and reduced power consumption."

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Dr. Parkin, born in Watford, discovered the spin-valve read head in 1989 whilst working at IBM Research. This discovery turned out to be a cost-efficient data storage technology that enable more data to be stored on each digital disk than ever before.

The British physicist also noted that the future spintronic inventions would boost the speed and size of memory storage, and within five to 10 years massive data centres would be replaced with smaller ones with more storage capacities.

"I am both humbled and honored to receive the Millennium Technology Prize from the Technology Academy Finland," Dr. Parkin said.

"Who would have known that my invention would one day sit at the heart of today’s cloud, social media and data analytics applications, and affect the way people share information and communicate with each other on the Internet, on our mobile devices and across the world," he added.

"This prize is a wonderful affirmation of the importance and relevance of my research on artificially-engineered materials, which has been the focus of my work for over 30 years."

His triumph was also hailed by Government science minister, David Willetts, who offered his congratulations, saying, "The success of this British born scientist demonstrates how the world of science and innovation is a truly global endeavour. I hope his achievement will inspire and encourage others to support our work to stay ahead in the global science race."

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