How can we make data storage and processing more sustainable?

Did you know that a huge amount of data is created every day by banks, social media, online meetings, streaming and so on? And that storing and processing these data consumes an enormous amount of energy? As an example, performing 30 online searches consumes as much electricity as boiling 1 liter of water. Or, streaming an hour of video in HD uses as much energy as a refrigerator running for two days.

Data centers in the Netherlands already use much of our electricity. Data usage is growing by more than 40% per year. If we want to be able to use unlimited and affordable Internet data in the future, we need to develop new ways and technologies for energy efficient and ultrafast data processing and storage. And this is exactly what researchers at Radboud University are working on. 

In this article, we take a closer look at research into new technologies for energy efficient data storage.

Sustainability is the key

When looking for innovative ways to store data, sustainability is an important aspect. Traditional methods such as hard drives can consume a lot of energy and may not be the most sustainable solution in the long run. Researchers at the Faculty of Science of Radboud University are therefore focusing on alternative technologies that require less energy without compromising on performance. By using the power of light to control one of the strongest quantum effects in magnetism, we can not only improve the speed and efficiency of data storage, but also contribute to a more sustainable future for our increasingly digital world.

Magnetic bits

One of the new developments the use of very short laser flashes to write magnetic bits. This method is based on the interaction between tiny magnets within a storage medium, known as exchange interaction. This exchange interaction is the strongest force known in magnetism. This new method makes it possible to use light to affect the exchange interaction, allowing us to manipulate magnetic bits faster and with less energy. This new method could eventually optimize the energy consumption of digital transactions and other ways of online information exchange and data storage.


This method of ultrashort laser flashes to write magnetic bits could well be a gamechanger for the future of digital data storage. By harnessing the power of light to manipulate the exchange interaction - a fundamental quantum effect - we can now write data faster and with less energy than ever before. 

What does this mean in practice? Imagine super efficient hard drives that use a fraction of the energy of current generations while processing data in the blink of an eye. Not only good news for our wallets, given the potential savings in energy costs, but it also has a big impact on our planet. Less energy consumption means a lower carbon footprint, which is crucial in the fight against climate change. And it does not stop here. It may also open doors to technological innovations we can't even imagine today. Just as the transistor paved the way for the digital age, these advances in manipulating magnetic bits by light may lay the groundwork for the next generation of technologies. To be continued.  


In our latest blog, we looked at energy efficient data storage technologies. Researchers at Radboud University are studying methods to store data faster, more efficiently and, most importantly, more sustainably. Their work could start to mean a lot for the way we handle digital information, using light to make magnetic storage not only faster, but also much more energy efficient. These innovations could significantly reduce the energy consumption of digital processes, reducing our digital footprint while continuing to satisfy our data hunger. Welcome to the future of sustainable data storage!


Each month in the BetaBoost, you'll get a sneak peek into ongoing research at the Faculty of Science and its social impact. Do you have a question about a current topic you'd like a scientific perspective on? Contact us on communications-science[at]


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