Forget SSD, this technology can store data for 10,000 years! – 01net

Imagine being able to engrave your photos, videos or documents on a quartz slab that resists fire, water, scratches and time. This is what Microsoft is offering with its Silica project, in which lasers write digital data into quartz. This technology allows up to 7TB of data to be stored on DVD format media that can last 10,000 years without loss of quality.

Back in 2019, we introduced you to the Silica Project, a Microsoft initiative whose goal is to store digital data in quartz. Technology is advancing and today allows up to 7TB of data to be stored in a CD-sized quartz disk for a period of 10,000 years.

Save Superman

To illustrate the possibilities of the Silica project, Microsoft conducted a demonstration in collaboration with Warner Bros., the famous film studio. Together they managed to store the 1978 Superman film, which lasts 2 hours and 22 minutes, in a quartz plate 7.5 cm long and 2 mm thick. This film, considered a cinematic classic and part of cultural heritage, was able to be preserved for future generations without the risk of deterioration or loss.


This experience demonstrates the Silica Project’s interest in protecting artistic works, which are often threatened by aging media or natural disasters. Glass could thus become a new means of conveying culture and memory and guarantee the longevity of data.

Last year, a Norwegian company used Microsoft technology to preserve some of the world’s musical heritage for the next 1,000 years.

Sustainable and ecological support

One of the main advantages of the Silica Project is that it provides a way to store data for the long term without fear of it deteriorating or becoming obsolete. In fact, quartz is a very resistant material that can withstand high temperatures, shocks, scratches or chemical influences.

“You can put it in boiling water, you can put it in an oven, you can even scratch its surface and the data on it will still remain safe,” says Ant Rowstron, deputy lab director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge.

Unlike hard drives or magnetic tape, storage also does not require electricity or air conditioning. Glass thus reduces the environmental footprint of data storage, which is currently a significant source of energy consumption and waste production.

Additionally, it is a universal medium that does not rely on a specific format or software for reading. All you need is a laser and an algorithm to access data, regardless of file type or operating system. Thus, this support avoids the problem of technological obsolescence, which often makes it impossible to read data stored on old or incompatible media.

A play of light and memory

The Silica Project is based on a process called microholography, which uses lasers to create three-dimensional patterns in glass. These patterns are called voxels and represent the bits of information (0 or 1) that make up digital data.

Each voxel is created by the intersection of two laser beams: a writing beam, which locally changes the structure of the glass, and an erasing beam, which cancels the effect of the first, except at the intersection. The voxels are arranged one above the other in layers of different depths, forming a kind of three-dimensional barcode.

To read the data stored in these “coaster-sized” plates, another laser must be used to illuminate the quartz plate and create a light pattern on a sensor. This pattern is then analyzed by an artificial intelligence algorithm that reconstructs the original data from the voxels. This process allows large amounts of data to be stored in a small space while ensuring high fidelity and a long service life.

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Until this type of storage one day becomes more widespread, we will have to struggle with our SDDs, USB sticks and other microSD cards for a few more years.

Source: Microsoft