Bitcoin miners

We are way past the cryptocurrency boom that made Bitcoin one of the world’s fastest-growing currencies. One of the downsides of Bitcoin is that mining a single Bitcoin requires a large amount of energy and thus it bumps the amount of carbon dioxide released in the process.

According to a report by IEEE Spectrum, processing a Bitcoin requires 5,000 times the energy consumed when you use a Visa credit card. The global electricity consumption for mining Bitcoin was close to the electric consumption of Austria, and the global carbon footprint is as much as the whole of Denmark. An estimate suggests that one transaction involving a single Bitcoin generates as much as 300 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

It is the reason why the cryptocurrency is costly.

So why does mining a Bitcoin requires such an enormous amount of energy?

The answer lies in an issue called “double spending” and the complex algorithms applied to overcome it. Double spending is a flaw in a digital cash scheme that allows spending a digital token more than once. To prevent the flaw, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin broadcast messages to an entire network for confirming each transaction.

Now, researchers at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, Switzerland, are developing a Bitcoin alternative that requires nearly zero energy and is much secure as compared to the popular crypto coins. The research team lead by Rachid Guerraoui argues that the issue of double-spending can be prevented by deploying faster and less energy-consuming algorithms.

The new algorithm proposed by Rachid and his team broadcasts messages similar to how gossip is done. For example, a user broadcasts a message to a small group, which, in turn, spreads the message to another group, and so on.

One of the benefits of this algorithm is that even when the number of users to which message has to be broadcasted is in billions, it takes not more than a few dozen rounds of communication.

Instead of checking the legibility of the transaction with each user, the new algorithm seeks consensus from a random sample of users in the system.

According to researchers, this consensus-less system is much more secure than the contemporary system and also consumes much less energy. Additionally, the carbon footprint of the new algorithm is also comparatively lower.

The new algorithm, along with the related studies, has been published in a paper titled “Scalable Byzantine Reliable Broadcast.” The same will be presented at the International Symposium on Distributed Computing in Budapest on October 16. Interestingly, the research paper has already won the Best Paper Award.

Rachid says, “We now have major sponsorship from the EU to try and implement this on a large scale. We want to make it open source for anyone to download and use [so they can see for themselves] that it is robust.”

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