The new storage technology stores data in quartz glass using laser light, which burns voxels into the medium that hold multiple bits of information. (Image credit: Microsoft)


A recent collaboration by Microsoft and Warner Brothers resulted in successfully storing the entire 1977 Superman movie on a piece of glass measuring just 75mm X 75mm X 2mm thick. The idea behind Microsoft’s Project Silica is a cold-storage solution of sorts designed to store data for long periods without any data degradation.


Take movies for example, as studios archive their films underground in climate-controlled environments to prevent the celluloid from decaying. Sure, you could also store them on hard drives, but they are prone to failure, and our favorite movies would be lost forever. Microsoft states that their new glass storage technology can store up to 75.6 GB of data for centuries without any data loss. To test its durability, researchers baked them in ovens, dunked them in boiling water, microwaved them, and scratched them with steel wool, none of which had any effect on the glass.



Microsoft researchers designed Project Silica using lasers, similar to the ones for Lasik eye surgery, to burn three-dimensional voxels into quartz glass. Unlike the pits and lands burned onto optical disks that represent 0’s and 1’s, voxels can hold multiple bits of information within many layers of glass. To put that into perspective, DVDs and Blue-Ray discs offer two layers of storage, while Microsoft’s glass has managed to squeeze 74 layers in an area only 2mm thick.


Data is read from the glass by projecting a light through it and analyzing the reflections produced from the voxels using a microscope-like device. The researchers conducted a bit-by-bit examination of the glass that stored the Superman movie and found no errors during playback. Microsoft states that this example was only a proof-of-concept test of the technology, and will still undergo development before it becomes commercially available.


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