Published on 19/12/2022
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Too much information - Aston University researchers to tackle global data storage crisis
Image credit: Intersectional Digital
  • The global datasphere is predicted to increase by 300%.
  • New surfaces around 10,000 times smaller than a human hair will increase data space
  • Solution will improve capacity to cope with mind-blowing amount of data produced each day.

Scientists at Aston University are starting a research programme to tackle the global shortage of digital data storage.

Currently all the data we use is stored on banks of servers housed in huge warehouses, or data centres.
In the next three years the total amount of data in the world - the global datasphere - is predicted to increase by 300%.

However, as data centres account for around 1.5% of the world’s annual electricity usage it has been recognised that building more huge warehouses is not sustainable.

Aston University has received funding (£204,031) to explore solutions to this problem.

Experts will develop a new technology to provide surfaces with channels less than five nanometres in width, around 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. 

This will enable increased capacity in data storage devices to cope with the mind-blowing amount of data produced around the world each day.

Dr Matt Derry, lecturer in chemistry within the University’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, is leading the project which is in collaboration with Specialist Computer Centres (SCC), the science facility Diamond Light Source and Babeș-Bolyai University, Romania. 

Dr Derry said: “Simply building new data centres without improving data storage technologies is not a viable solution.

“Increasingly we face the risk of a so-called data storage crunch and improved data storage solutions are imperative to keep up with the demands of the modern world.”

Dr Derry will be working with Dr Amit Kumar Sarkar, a researcher in materials chemistry, who is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dr Sarkar said: “I’m delighted to be joining Aston University to develop more efficient data storage technologies.

“We will be exploiting advanced polymer chemistry as a pathway to increase the amount of data that can be housed on storage media.

“Increasing the efficiency of existing technologies will significantly reduce the need for costly, environmentally damaging construction of new ‘mega data centres’.

“The next three years will be crucial. The global datasphere is predicted to increase to 175 zettabytes, with one zettabyte being approximately equal to one billion terabytes.”

The research will contribute to the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) 2022-2027 strategy, and the United Nations sustainable development goals.

It also has the potential to impact other technologies where performance relies on creating regular patterns on the nanometre scale, such as organic electronics for solar energy.

For more information about studying chemistry at Aston University visit

Notes to editors

Notes to Editors

Dr Amit Kumar Sarkar is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/X021386/1) after successfully applying to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme.


About Diamond Light Source

For further information: please contact Diamond Communications: Lorna Campbell +44 7836 625999 or Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke +44 1235 778130

Diamond Light Source: Twitter: @DiamondLightSou

Diamond Light Source works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce bright light that scientists can use to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines. The machine accelerates electrons to near light speeds so that they give off light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. These bright beams are then directed off into laboratories known as ‘beamlines’. Here, scientists use the light to study a vast range of subject matter, from new medicines and treatments for disease to innovative engineering and cutting-edge technology. Whether it’s fragments of ancient paintings or unknown virus structures, at the synchrotron, scientists can study their samples using a machine that is 10,000 times more powerful than a traditional microscope.


About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston is a long-established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

In 2022 Aston University was ranked in the top 25 of the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Nicola Jones, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7825 342091 or email:

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