France's Albert Fert and Germany's Peter Gruenberg won the 2007 Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday for discoveries allowing the miniaturization of hard disks in electronic devices from laptops to iPods.
The 10 million Swedish crown ($1.54 million) prize, awarded by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, recognized the discovery by Fert, 69, and Gruenberg, 68, of giant magnetoresistance, which has helped revolutionize computer data storage and retrieval.
It is thanks to this technology that it has been possible to miniaturize hard disks so radically in recent years, the academy said in a statement.
The two scientists' work made it possible to produce technology capable of converting tiny magnetic changes into differences in electrical resistance.
Harnessing these tiny magnetic changes -- dubbed spintronics -- made it possible to pack much more data onto hard disks and the development of handheld devices such as mobile phones or music players.
The idea of spintronics is we could use the spins of the electron instead of an electrical charge to process and store massive amounts of data on disks, said Chris Marrows, a physicist at Leeds University who specializes in spintronics.
It is the thing that has made iPods possible and anything that requires lots of data storage, like YouTube.
Fert and Gruenberg made their discovery independently of each other and in comments broadcast live from the Academy's news conference, Fert said he was happy to share the prize with his colleague.
I knew I was one out of many candidates and I am very proud, Fert said.
As Nobel physics laureates, Fert and Gruenberg join the ranks of some of the greatest names in science, such as Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Niels Bohr and Wilhelm Rontgen -- who won the first prize in 1901 for his discovery of X-rays.
This was the second of this year's crop of Nobel prizes which are handed out annually for achievements in science, literature, economics and peace.
The Karolinska Institute on Monday announced this year's medicine laureates to kick off a week during which the winners in all five categories outlined in the will of dynamite millionaire Alfred Nobel are presented.
The winner of the Nobel prize for chemistry will be announced on Wednesday, followed by that for literature on Thursday and peace on Friday.
The prize for economics, an addition to Nobel's original list of awards established by Sweden's central bank in 1968, will be presented on Monday, October 15.
(Additional reporting by Simon Johnson, Sarah Edmonds, Adam Cox and Emma Bengtsson in Stockholm, and Michael Kahn in London)