A new digital currency mining chip is being released next week that the manufacturer believes will severely decrease the amount of electricity needed to mine bitcoin, an important factor for miners.
According to Marshall Long, the CTO of FinalHash, a mining consulting firm, “these new chips will allow hobbyists to get back in the game. Power to the miners.”
The new chip is being manufactured by SFARDS, a new company formed from the merger of two other Bitcoin mining companies, Gridseed and WiiBox. Gridseed was a mining chip and hardware manufacturer, while WiiBox developed software and hardware for controlling mining rigs. According to Long, Frank Li is leading the team that is bringing this chip to market.
“This chip outperforms everything on the market by about 40 percent, give or take, on the bitcoin side, and about 130 percent on the litecoin side. Plus, you can mine both at the same time,” Long said.
The chip requires only 0.331 watts/GH, which is a measure of the electricity required to perform hashing operations. According to Long, this makes the new chip the most efficient ever produced. At the same time it mines bitcoin, the new chip will mine litecoin using 2.9 watts/MH.
Many companies have attempted to make more advanced, efficient chips, but SFARDS used an experimental technology to reach these levels. According to Long, the company used a process called Fully Depleted Silicon on Insulator, otherwise known as FDSOI.
While most chips are made entirely on silicon, this process allows for alternating layers of silicon and silicon dioxide. Long explained that this “allows you to take a design and, with no alterations in the design ,use this manufacturing process to keep the power consumption to a minimum.”
While it works in theory, no manufacturer has been able to do this method at scale, a fact Long admitted was a concern for SFARDS. “However, the 100 sample chips I saw were flawless,” he said. Long visited the SFARDS production facility in Beijing to test the chip in person and pick up some development boards.
SFARDS aims to release two production units. The first is a single chip USB miner for the average consumer who wants to experiment with mining. The second is a 16- or 24-chip full miner that is meant for enthusiasts and large-scale mining operations. Further, SFARDS plans to ship 50 development boards next week to developers who will be able to tweak the hardware to try to create an even more efficient chip.
According to Long, the optimal setting to run the chip is at 0.062V, which allows each chip to reach the capacity of 100GH/s, coming out to the 0.331 watts/GH. Long explained that he tested the chip in an open environment which enabled the chip to remain around 49.2 degrees Celsius; however, he admitted that in an enclosed environment the heat might be much greater.
Because this chip can mine both bitcoin and litecoin simultaneously, there are two sides to it. On the bitcoin side, it has 160 processing cores, while on the litecoin side, it has 125 processing cores. It also has on-chip RAM.
Is There Demand?
The mining industry has shrunken dramatically over the past six months due to the low price of bitcoin. On January 1, 2015, cloud mining company and GHash.IO mining pool operator CEX.IO announced that it was temporarily suspending cloud mining operations due to the bitcoin price drop. As the price has fallen lower, electricity costs and mining efficiency has become an even more important factor for miners. However, a new generation of high-efficiency chips, including this one from SFARDS, is in development.
“I have personally already talked to many major farms, and many are excited,” Long said. “SFARDS is being cautious, and batch one will be produced only in a quantity of around three petahash. And they will limit each customer to a small amount so everyone can try it out. However, big farms will be allowed towards mid-summer to order in bulk.”
Due to the chip being in the final PCB design phase, Long wasn’t yet sure what the price for the chip would be. He did say, however, that the price would be competitive and that, “I personally expect the first miners to be finished and ready to be shipped in under one month’s time from today.”
When it does launch, FinalHash, Dual Miner, and a few other distributors will be allowed to sell both units.