Case Study

Sealed in Glass – Microsoft Research: Project Silica

Sealed in Glass – Microsoft Research: Project Silica

Storing data on glass might sound futuristic, but it’s a concept that dates back to the 19th century when single photographic negatives were preserved on panes of glass. Fast forward to today, technology has remarkably expanded the storage capabilities of this sustainable material. A small sheet of glass can now hold several terabytes of data, enough to store approximately 1.75 million songs or 13 years’ worth of music.

Elire, a sustainability-focused venture group, has collaborated with Microsoft Research’s Project Silica team to harness this technology for their Global Music Vault in Svalbard, Norway. Using silica-based glass plates, they’re creating a durable archive that is not only resistant to electromagnetic pulses and extreme temperatures but also environmentally friendly. This vault will complement repositories like the Global Seed Vault and the Arctic World Archive, offering a comprehensive sanctuary for musical heritage—from classical operas to modern hits and indigenous compositions. Looking to the future, Elire plans to expand this enduring musical repository by establishing accessible locations worldwide, inviting the public to interact with this extensive and ever-growing archive. 

Developed under the aegis of Microsoft Research, Project Silica can store massive amounts of data in glass plates roughly the size of a drink coaster and preserve the data for thousands of years. Richard Black, Research Director, Project Silica, adds, “This technology allows us to write data knowing it will remain unchanged and secure, which is a significant step forward in sustainable data storage.” 

Project Silica’s goal is to write data in a piece of glass and store it on a shelf until it is needed. Once written, the data inside the glass is impossible to change.

Cambridge Filmworks have worked with Microsoft Research and Hecho Studios in California on this brand new film showcasing this cutting-edge new technology.

To find out more about Project Silica, please visit:

Cambridge Filmworks

Cambridge Video Production

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