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Bernard Diény at the Computer History Museum

​Bernard Diény, a researcher at IRIG, played an eminent role in the development of the "spin valves" that led IBM to market hard disk drive read heads using giant magnetoresistance in 1997 - just eight years after its discovery by Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg (2007 Nobel Prize winner). An astonishing success story, told in detail by Bernard Dieny and his collaborators, thanks to the Computer History Museum.

Published on 28 May 2020
In May 2019, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, held an oral history session on giant magnetoresistance (GMR) read heads. These have made it possible to significantly increase the storage capacity of computer hard disks.

The invention of the GMR head is particularly noteworthy because it led to the development of the second generation of magnetoresistive heads that were used to read data from hard disks between 1997 and 2006. Beginning in 2005, key innovations related to the GMR head led to the commercialization of magnetic tunneling junction devices used in magnetoresistive tunnelling heads (TMR) and magnetic random access memories (MRAM). All modern disk and tape drives use TMR heads to read data.

This history has been reconstituted in detail by the main actors involved: Drs Bernard Diény, Virgil Speriosu, Bruce Gurney and Mustafa Pinarbasi. All were IBM employees in the early 1990s and all collaborated in the development of spin valves that were used as sensing elements in hard disk drives between 1998 and 2004.

In 2002, Bernard Diény took part in the creation of SPINTEC (CEA-CNRS-UGA-Grenoble INP), now at the IRIG, and magnetic thin film engineering continued there with the development of magnetic tunnel junctions for a new generation of hard disk drives, as well as for magnetic, non-volatile and energy-saving memories: MRAMs.

A few years later, Spintec's original developments, such as the MRAM (Magnetic Random Access Memory) with thermally assisted writing or the hybrid microelectronic circuits CMOS - magnetic tunnel junctions, intended for low-power electronics, led to the creation of the start-ups Crocus Technology and Evaderis. Many of Spintec's innovations are also at the origin of the creation of Hprobe, Antaios.

Bernard Diény at the Computer History Museum:

Spintec, a leading spintronics laboratory:

Invention, development and commercialization of the GMR heads Oral History Panel at the Computer History Museum site:

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