Intel has been granted a patent for developing an energy-efficient bitcoin mining process which is said to cut overall power consumption by 15%.
Intel filed its titled "Optimized SHA256 Datapath" patent on June 29, 2016, at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The patent was granted to the company last Tuesday. Here is the summary of the patent:
A processing system includes a processor to construct an input message comprising a plurality of padding bits and a hardware accelerator, communicatively coupled to the processor, comprising a first plurality of circuits to perform a stage-1 secure hash algorithm (SHA) hash based on the input message, wherein the hardware accelerator comprises a first data path coupled between a first reference node and a first input node of the first plurality of circuits to feed a first padding bit of the plurality of padding bits to the first input node.
The reward for a successful Bitcoin mining is the generation of a certain number of new Bitcoins and the service fee associated with the transactions validated during the mining process. Each Bitcoin may be exchanged for currencies in circulation (e.g., U.S. dollars) or used in transactions with merchants that accept Bitcoins.
Bitcoin mining is currently associated with certain costs such as, for example, the computing resources consumed to perform Bitcoin mining operations. The most expensive operation in Bitcoin mining involves the computationally-intensive task of determining the validity of a 32-bit nonce. The nonce is a number or a string of bits that is used only once. A 32-bit nonce is a number (or a string of bits) that is represented by 32 bits. The 32-bit nonce may be part of a 1024-bit input message that may also include the Merkle root, the hash of the last chain block, and other parameters. The 1024-bit message may be hashed using three stages of a secure hash algorithm (e.g., SHA-256) to produce a 256-bit hash value that may be compared to a target value also contained in the input message to determine the validity of the nonce. The operations to calculate the hash value are commonly performed on hardware accelerators (e.g., the SHA-256 hash may be performed on application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs)) and may consume a lot of power. The power consumption by the hardware accelerators is the recurring cost for the Bitcoin mining.
Intel's patent describes technical solutions that include hardware accelerators to perform energy-efficient Bitcoin mining using energy-efficient clock system.
Current dedicated Bitcoin mining ASICs are used to implement multiple SHA-256 engines that may deliver a performance of thousands of hashes per second while consuming power of greater than 200 W. Intel's solution employs micro-architectural optimizations such as selective hardwiring certain parameters in Bitcoin mining computation. Intel says that the hardwiring of these parameters eliminate the need for recursive rounds of computations of these parameters and reduce the overall circuit area and power consumption by about 15%.