The “oPoW” proposal proposes a new Proof of Work algorithm adapted for optical hardware. The optical Proof of Work (oPoW) promises to increase Bitcoin scalability from 10 to 100 times.

The optical Proof of Work (oPoW), which promises to significantly reduce electricity consumption in Bitcoin mining, already has a litepaper. It was published in early November by developer Michael Dubrovsky, co-founder of the PoWx startup and one of the promoters of the idea.

The document outlines the basis for using optical hardware in cryptocurrency mining, and the characteristics of the optical Proof of Work (oPoW). When launching the proposal, Dubrovsky argued that it is an alternative to reduce several Bitcoin scalability problems, such as geographic centralization, the monopoly of specialized hardware manufacturers (ASICs) and the growing electricity consumption of the network.

In the litepaper “Optical Proof of Work,” researchers Michael Dubrovsky, Marshall Ball and Bogdan Penkovsky present Haveyhash, a new Hascash model on which the architecture of the PoW algorithm on Bitcoin is currently based. As they note, the prototype is aimed at mimicking the construction of the current PoW, but adapted to optical computing, so they believe that changes to the operation of the protocol would be minimal.

Proof of Work and Electricity Consumption

The oPoW litepaper notes that the Proof of Work scheme, based on Adam Back’s Hascash, consists of imposing verifiable economic costs on miners. These costs translate into the computational power used to solve the computing challenge “cryptopuzzle,” associated with the creation of new blocks in the blockchain. The solution to this challenge constitutes the “Proof of Work,” since it guarantees that a certain computation amount was used to find it.

Current Bitcoin mining algorithm (SHA256) has proven its effectiveness as a consensus mechanism and a tool for issuing coins, as well as for protecting the network from Sybil attacks and double spending. However, Dubrovsky and the other researchers of the optical Proof of Work proposal highlight that Bitcoin’s growth in the last decade has made it clear that electricity consumption is the primary cost of a Bitcoin mining operation.

This trend is said to expose the Bitcoin network to risks such as the geographic centralization of mining activity, since miners tend to concentrate in regions with low energy costs such as Iceland and Western China, generating unique points of failure. Likewise, the increase in the difficulty of the network and the resulting “industrialization” of cryptocurrency mining contributed to the emergence of “mining farms” with a strong environmental impact.

On the other hand, the high electricity consumption of these operations leads miners to require the consent, and even the association with public service companies and the governments controlling them. The report notes that this circumstance implies a potential risk to regulatory attacks, coupled with sensitivity to fluctuations in electricity rates.

Mining with Optical Computing

The researchers propose a model that eliminates electricity as the primary cost of cryptocurrency mining, which would allow Bitcoin to scale 10 to 100 times its current size. The approach seeks to focus the verifiable economic cost of the Proof of Work on capital expenditures (optical computing hardware) rather than on operational expenditures (electricity).

Current advances in the area, driven by the development of artificial intelligence (AI), lead researchers to affirm that the integration of optical processing can significantly increase the processing speed, maintaining very low levels of electricity consumption.

For that reason, they created a prototype of optical hardware based on components used in AI, called silicon coprocessors, which they believe have the greatest potential for high-efficiency cryptocurrency mining. The document states that multiple companies in the IT sector, among which it mentions Luxtera, IBM and Intel, use silicon photonics technology to manufacture transceivers that they use for transmitting data between their servers.

By Willmen Blanco


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