Quantum miners would yield ‘massive’ energy savings for blockchain: Study

A pair of scientists from the University of Kent’s School of Computing in the UK recently conducted a research study contrasting the energy consumption of current ASIC-based miners and proposed quantum-based solutions.

According to the preprint research paper from the team, it was demonstrated that systems utilizing quantum computing were more energy efficient than standard mining rigs.

As of May 2022, the paper states that Bitcoin mining operations alone consumed more than 150 terawatt hours of energy per year, giving us insight into the potential effects of the proposed quantum-based systems.

The conclusions of the duo were drawn from experiments that pitted three different quantum mining systems against an Antminer S19 XP ASIC miner.

The quantum mining devices were divided between a system with one layer of fault tolerance, another with two layers of fault tolerance, and one without any fault tolerance features.

The researchers note that blockchain mining is one of the few areas of quantum computing where error correction is not a major concern. In most quantum operations, errors generate interference that can impede a computing system’s ability to generate precise calculations.

In blockchain mining, however, the success rates achieved with modern classical systems are still quite low. According to the research paper, “A classical Bitcoin miner is only profitable with a success rate of approximately 0.000070%.”

The researchers also point out that, in contrast to classical systems, quantum-based systems can be adjusted over time for improved precision and effectiveness.

What effect does quantum computing have on the finance industry?

Although quantum computing technology is still in its early stages, the particular task of blockchain mining does not necessitate a comprehensive quantum computing system. As the scientists explained, “a quantum miner does not have to be, and does not need to be, a large-scale, all-encompassing quantum computer. A quantum miner only needs to carry out one task.”

The researchers ultimately reach the conclusion that it is feasible to construct miners with existing quantum technologies that show quantum superiority to classical computers.

It is worth noting that the researchers concentrated on a type of quantum computing system known as a “noisy intermediate-scale quantum” (NISQ) system, despite the potential energy savings.

As stated in the preprint paper, quantum miners should show “significant” energy savings with a size of around 512 qubits, which is comparable to classical computing bits.

Typically, however, NISQ systems are limited to around 50-100 qubits, though there is no established industry norm.

Though the potential for energy savings is possible, the costs of constructing and sustaining a quantum computing system of 512 qubits have historically been too high for most entities.

Only D-Wave and IBM provide systems that are accessible to customers with similar qubit counts (D-Wave’s D2 has 512 qubits, and IBM’s Osprey has 433), but their architectures are so dissimilar that it is essentially impossible to make meaningful comparisons between their qubit numbers.

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