Intel Launches Second-Generation Bitcoin Mining Chip ‘Blockscale’

On Monday, Intel, a US multinational semiconductor chip maker corporation headquartered in California, announced that it has launched its second-generation Bitcoin mining chip, commonly known as “Intel Blockscale ASIC,” which will increase the energy efficiency of Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining.

Through the company’s decades of research and development in related areas, Intel said that It has developed and unveiled the new Bitcoin mining chip to provide crypto mining companies with more efficient mining rigs than most models available in the market.

Balaji Kanigicherla, the Vice-President and General Manager of the blockchain unit at Intel, talked about the development and said: “Intel’s decades of R&D in cryptography, hashing techniques and ultra-low voltage circuits make it possible for blockchain applications to scale their computing power without compromising on sustainability.”

The new product launch is important because it will help mining firms win concerns of the environmental, social and governance (ESG). Cryptocurrency mining has long been associated with environmental harm.

Jose Rios, General Manager of Intel’s blockchain group, further stated that: “The Intel Blockscale ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) is going to play a major role in helping Bitcoin mining companies achieve both sustainability and hashrate scaling objectives in the years ahead.”

According to Intel’s statement, each Blockscale ASIC chip will offer up to 580 gigahashes per second (GH/s) of hash rate with up to 26 joules per terahash (J/TH) of power efficiency and support up to 256 integrated circuits per chain, as well as providing on-chip temperature –and voltage–sensing capabilities.

Blockscale promises to be more energy-efficient than others at SHA-256 hashing, which is most commonly used in Bitcoin mining. That sounds great news for Bitcoin mining firms.

Navigating the Future

Early this year, Intel started investing in blockchain technology with a fresh venture designed to manufacture new chips to mine cryptocurrency. The firm focuses on sustainability and is working on creating the most energy-efficient computing technologies at scale.

In February, Intel revealed its first-generation crypto-focused chip, called “Bonanza Mine”, scheduled to be shipped later this year. Three companies have already preordered the technology, including Block (formerly known as Square), the Jack Dorsey-owned fintech firm, Bitcoin mining company GRIID Infrastructures, and Bitcoin mining firm HIVE Blockchain Technologies Ltd).

With the environmental impact of crypto mining becoming a huge concern, Intel’s first and second generations of its mining chips aim to address these issues.

Image source: Shutterstock


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Bitcoin miners facing chip shortage amid skyrocketing demand

A chip shortage is significantly affecting the Bitcoin mining hardware distribution chain, according to Reuters on Jan. 22, 

Indeed, Bitmain — one of the major Bitcoin miner makers — has seen its inventory sold out until August 2021, according to information on its website. Apart from being out of stock, Bitmain’s mining rigs are now at a massive price premium.

For instance, back in November 2020, the Antminer S19 shipped for $1,897 a unit. As of the time of writing, the same miner is priced at $2,767 on the company’s website — a 45% markup.

Speaking to Reuters, Alex Ao, vice president at semiconductor manufacturer Innosilicon, said, “There are not enough chips to support the production of mining rigs.”

What little supply is available is reportedly being scooped by major mining establishments in North America. Back in 2020, U.S.-based mining giants like Riot Blockchain, Bitfarms, and Marathon significantly upscaled their inventory with massive purchases from Bitmain and fellow rival MicroBT.

These capacity expansions occurred even as Bitcoin went through its quadrennial halving that saw block reward subsidies cut in half. Thus, while China still dominates the global hash rate distribution, North American mining interests are reportedly “squeezing supply to China.”

Chinese miners have also suffered notable disruptions of late including a frozen card tide back in 2020 that prevented some operations from being able to pay for electricity. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, authorities in China’s Yunnan province also shut off power supply to miners in the region.

Smaller mining operations are also in danger of being priced out of the market. Premiums on hardware, even second-hand rigs on top of the reduced block rewards could significantly impact their bottom lines.

Already, other industries dependent on semiconductors are beginning to feel the effects of the continued shortage. Car manufacturers like Ford have announced shutdowns of some of their plants.