Mar 07, 2012 - Claremont, Calif. - Eric Fullerton ’84 received the American Institute of Physics 2012 Prize for Industrial Applications of Physics during the American Physical Society’s 2012 March Meeting in Boston, Mass.
Eric Fullerton '84
Eric Fullerton ’84 received the American Institute of Physics 2012 Prize for Industrial Applications of Physics during the American Physical Society’s 2012 March Meeting in Boston, Mass.
The award recognizes scientists who have developed proven industrial technologies. Fullerton’s work on exchange-coupled magnetic recording media—which plays a key role in audio, video and computer technology—helped enable the last decade’s worth of growth in the storage densities in disk drives.
“I was very gratified and honored to hear of the selection,” said Fullerton. “I also was appreciative of the opportunity that I had at IBM and Hitachi GST to work with a great team. They created a fertile environment for creating new ideas and following them through to products.”
In the late 1990s, a limit to drive densities was predicted based on thermal instabilities in the magnetic recording media. Fullerton and the magnetic media team at IBM were able to push back the limit by introducing a thin layer of the element ruthenium sandwiched between magnetic layers.
Technically known as antiferromagnetically coupled (AFC) recording media, the innovation was dubbed “pixie dust,” due to its seemingly magical ability to improve performance. AFC media’s first consumer application was in IBM’s Travelstar hard drive products in 2001.
Fullerton continued his work on AFC technology while at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, developing laminated AFC media, in which an additional magnetic layer enabled further gains in storage densities. He also worked on ferromagnetically coupled composite structures that enhanced the performance of perpendicular recording media.
Fullerton received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvey Mudd College and his doctorate in physics from the University of California, San Diego. He joined the magnetic films group in the Materials Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., as a postdoctoral fellow and, in 1993, became a staff scientist specializing in the physics of coupled magnetic films.
He is currently a professor of electrical and computer engineering and nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego. He is also the holder of an endowed chair and the director of the Center of Magnetic Recording Research. Fullerton has co-authored more than 240 papers in refereed journals and holds 50 U.S. patents, including a patent selected as one of the "Five Patents to Watch" in 2001 by MIT's Technology Review magazine.
Media Contact: Judy Augsburger