Bitcoin - Jack Dorsey unveils his hashboard prototype

Jack Dorsey’s Block company has finalized the first hashboard prototype for its bitcoin miner kit (MDK) announced at the start of the year.

What is a hashboard and what is it used for?

The hashboard is a printed circuit board that houses ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits). These electronic chips carry out the famous Proof-of-Work of the Bitcoin network via the SHA-256 algorithm.

The goal is to frantically hash block headers until you find the right hash. The latter allows the miner to propagate a transaction block and pocket a reward which is currently 6.25 bitcoins.

ASICs require energy in electrical form which is not free. One of the main design goals of ASICs is therefore to maximize the number of hashes per unit of energy. This is what we call efficiency. It is measured in joules per terahash (thousands of billions of hashes).

Today, the most efficient miner is the S21 antminer produced by Bitmain. Available from November, in its water cooling version it has an efficiency of 16 J/TH, compared to 21 J/TH for the previous S19 XP model.

To maximize energy efficiency, ASICs must be kept cool while operating. Efficient heat dissipation is a key goal in hashboard design.

A hashboard must also support sensors, particularly for temperature levels and failures of certain chips.

As a general rule, the management of hashboard sensors is ensured by a controller board which is another printed circuit board hosting firmware which should ideally be able to modify the hashing frequencies, manage cooling and communicate with the pools.

Block’s MDK hashboard

The MDK hashboard uses 100 ASICs manufactured by Intel (Blockscale ASICs). This quantity of ASIC ensures that the MDK board, in a standard three-board chassis format, will have an electrical footprint compatible with the APW12 power supply. This power supply is found in the E9, D7, S19+, S19Apro, S19A, S19jpro, S19j, S19i, S19, S19 Pro, T19 miner chassis.

The hash board size is also compatible with the chassis dimensions of the most common miners. It was therefore designed to fit easily into the chassis of old Bitmain antminers which will be able to give themselves a second life.

block hashboard MDK Bitcoin
Hashboard allowing you to mine bitcoins / Each square represents an ASIC (chip) / Source: Block blog

Aluminum heatsinks sit on the hashboard and contact each ASIC using a highly conductive thermal interface material (TIM). This allows heat to be extracted from each ASIC to maintain high power efficiency.

Main features of the MDK

The MDK hashboard includes more features than most commercial hashboards. The most notable of these are:

Distributed control architecture. A microcontroller is located on the hashboard. This allows local processing of certain functions and supports new flexible architectures.

Precise control of the amount of electricity consumed. Components on the hashboards allow fine modulation of energy consumption. This will allow a quick start of chopping when switching on or coming out of standby mode. Including in low ambient temperature environments.

Precise control of hashing frequency. Thanks to its software, the hashboards are able to operate in a very wide range of power and efficiency. The limits are conditioned by the heat dissipation capacity and the minimum and maximum hashing frequencies. In other words, it will be possible to unlock its ASICs to do under/over clocking.

In short, the MDK’s open source firmware supports important features. Including underclocking, overclocking, fast hashing start and stop, and disabling fans in case of overheating. These features will obviously be accessible via a graphical user interface.

We hope that the next big announcement will be 3nm chips. Block should receive its 5nm chip prototypes this fall, which will provide valuable information for the design of 3nm chips.

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