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The Ridiculous Amount of Energy It Takes to Run Bitcoin


TThe ever-expanding racks of processors used by bitcoin miners consume as much electricity as a small city.

Experts are investigating energy-saving solutions for mining bitcoin.

Credit: Greg Mably

Keeping bitcoin running via the process of "mining" consumes a staggering amount of electricity, and experts concerned about an energy crisis stemming from slowing chip efficiency gains combined with the cryptocurrency's soaring value are investigating energy-saving solutions.

Bitcoin mining's enormous energy expenditure is partly due to the computationally intense process of cryptographic hashing needed to encode each new block of transactions. Blockchain.info recently estimated that the world's bitcoin miners were producing about 5 quintillion 256-bit cryptographic hashes each second.

Sebastiaan Deetman at Leiden University in the Netherlands warns that bitcoin power demand could potentially swell 20-fold to 14 gigawatts by 2020 if hash computations continue to accelerate.

Remedies being explored by Intel's Michael Reed include a blockchain system that uses built-in security features in central-processing units. Reed notes one piece of Intel software randomly chooses which users will write each block, and idles all users' code for randomly determined intervals.

From IEEE Spectrum
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Abstracts Copyright © 2017 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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