Project Silica: Microsoft storage to store data forever

Microsoft unveiled its in 2019 Project Silicaa method of cold data storage that is proposed as a future alternative to media such as CD, DVD and Blu-ray.
If CDs and DVDs have a longevity of one or two centuries, Project Silica storage devices would be much more resistant and would even last several millennia.

Researchers from the Redmond company explained that Project Silica uses silica crystals (like quartz) measuring 7.5 x 7.5 x 2 mm, capable of storing 75.6 GB of data, code for there error correction included.

Project Silica stores files for millennia

What Project Silica is and how it works

Unlike traditional CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, which are burned using a technique that introduces variations on the plastic surface of the “writable” medium, Project Silica creates layers of lattices and introduces deformations in the particles on a nanometric scale while aartificial intelligence deals with error correction to ensure data longevity.

A laser encodes data into the crystal, creating layers of grids and three-dimensional deformations on the nanoscale at various depths and angles. Machine learning algorithms read the data by decoding the patterns that are created when polarized light passes through the glass“, explain the creators of the new storage system.

In 2019 the first Microsoft test, carried out with the collaboration of Warner Brosconsisted in memorizing the film original Superman from 1978 in a small Project Silica holder, no bigger than the palm of your hand.

In October 2023, the Redmond company says it has increased the capacity of Project Silica media up to 7 Terabytes, approximately 100 times the capacity of the original version. That’s the equivalent of around 1.75 million songs: all the music released in 13 years of record industry activity fits on a piece of glass 7.5cm wide on each side. The data retention period instead increases to well 10,000 years. An eternity.

Data safe forever, or almost, with Project Silica media

While the contents of a CD or DVD can remain intact and readable for a century or two, provided they are stored in suitable conditions and care is taken not to damage them, Project Silica is almost immortal.

If CDs and DVDs “expire” because the physical plastic layer begins to decompose and data integrity is lost, Project Silica is a candidate forarchiving of historical data or precious cultural treasures, as crystals are resistant in every situation. Even when no particular conservation rules are followed.

Writing Project Silica glass data

Microsoft spokespeople claim that Project Silica crystals can be immersed in boiling water, placed in the microwave, roasted in an oven, cleaned with a scouring pad or scraper, held near a powerful magnet without causing the slightest problem.

A tool for long-term data backup on the Azure platform

It’s difficult to predict what the impact of Project Silica will be on the market but when it comes to a new system data storagedurable and resilient, for a company like Microsoft that is actively committed to the platform Azure, the scenario could be destined to change radically in the future. Also because holding a patent like the one linked to Project Silica could prove to be a real gold mine.

To write data, Microsoft uses a laser a femtosecondi ultrafast, a type of laser that emits extremely short pulses with durations in the order of femtoseconds, or one quadrillionth of a second (10-15 seconds). These laser pulses are extremely fast and allow you to perform experiments and procedures that require precision at the atomic or molecular level. The information can be read without limitations but the data cannot be subsequently modified.

Obviously what will need to be verified are the performance obtainable by writing on voxel, the three-dimensional pixels of Project Silica: which “burners” can be used? Who are the readers? There will certainly still be a lot of work to do because performance has not been talked about and we can imagine that at present the performance they are certainly not Project Silica’s strong point.

However, once again, what the best cult science fiction – how Star Trek – they predicted is about to come true.

The opening image is taken from the video “Preserving data for thousands of years in glass“.


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