Block chasing Bitmain

Block wants to decentralize the Bitcoin network a little more. Jack Dorsey’s company is working on a 3 nm ASIC.

Bitcoin’s Achilles Heel

Ultimately, bitcoin is as decentralized as its less decentralized component. For example, it doesn’t matter that there are hundreds of miners if their hashrate is crowded by a handful of pools.

Arguably the least decentralized aspect of Bitcoin is ASIC manufacturing. As Block says in his press release:

“Bitcoin is mined today using ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits). […] However, their development is very difficult, both technically and in terms of investment. […] This results in a high level of centralization of ASIC supply, to the detriment of miners and the resilience of the bitcoin network. »

Bitmain is the leader in ASIC manufacturing. Last November, at the World Mining Digital Summit in Dubai, Bitmain unveiled the Antminer S19 XP which uses TSMC 5nm technology. Its efficiency is 21.5 J/TH

At the latest news (which date of last year), Bitmain would control 60% of the market. Its two major competitors are currently MicroBT and Canaan.

MicroBT’s best ASIC is the Whatsminer M50S. The latter displays an efficiency of 26 J/TH thanks to Samsung’s 5nm engraving technology. Canaan offers the Avalon (25 J/TH):

Other companies like Ebang and Innosilicon (also Chinese) exist. But neither has produced next-generation ASICs for several years.

In short, the firms capable of designing the latest generation ASICs can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And all of them are Chinese.

Enter Block and its ASIC in 3 nm

Earlier this year, Block had already unveiled a “Mining development kit” comprising four components:

  • A hashboard (map including ASICs)
  • A controller board (the miner’s brain that manages temperature, frequency, voltage, etc.)
  • A free firmware, a web interface and a programming interface that will allow to underclock or overclock ASICs.
  • Detailed support documents to facilitate under/overclocking

And while Intel has just thrown in the towel despite its solid Blocscale ASICs (26 J/TH), Block announces “significant progress”.

Even better, Block intends to make its work open source (“as much as possible”):

“Our main motivation is to increase the decentralization, transparency and resilience of the bitcoin network. Thus, we plan to make our technology open source whenever possible. In other words, we intend to allow third parties to use our hardware and software solutions for their own development, selling ASICs and standalone components. We seek to optimize innovation and maximize the number of mining hardware suppliers. »

Block finished designing a 5nm ASIC last year. The latter was to allow him to mine on his own. Nevertheless, its production was canceled due to the opportunity to acquire a large volume of ASICs from Intel.

Jack Dorsey’s company will now focus exclusively on 3 nm design:

“To support our 3nm ASIC development, we made progress this month in manufacturing a 5nm prototype. This is an exciting step that will allow us to validate our design work, experiment with design variations and perform tests. We should receive the prototypes this fall. They will be a valuable contribution to our development work in 3 nm. »

ASICs in 3 nm would be superior to those of Bitmain. That said, the Chinese are certainly also working on designing their own latest generation ASIC.

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