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A pair of scientists from the School of Computing at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom recently conducted a study comparing the power consumption levels of current ASIC-based miners with proposed quantum solutions.
According to the team’s preliminary research, systems using quantum computing have clearly outperformed standard mining rigs in terms of energy efficiency:
“We show that the transition to quantum mining could result in energy savings of – relatively conservatively estimated – around 126.7 TWh, or in other words, Sweden’s total energy consumption in 2020.”
According to the article, Bitcoin mining operations alone are consuming over 150 terawatt-hours per year (as of May 2022), allowing for an estimate of the potential impact that the proposed quantum systems could have.
The pair’s conclusions were based on experiments comparing three different quantum mining systems with the Antminer S19 XP ASIC miner.
Quantum mining devices were divided between a system with one level of fault tolerance, another with two levels of fault tolerance, and one without any special error correction features.
As the researchers note, blockchain mining is one of the few areas of quantum computing where error correction is not a big deal. In most quantum functions, errors create noise that functionally limits the ability of a computing system to perform accurate calculations.
However, in blockchain mining, success rates using modern classical systems are still relatively low. According to the research paper, “a classic bitcoin miner is only profitable with a success rate of around 0.000070%.”
The researchers also note that, unlike classical systems, systems based on quantum mechanics can adjust over time to improve accuracy and efficiency.
Related: How is quantum computing impacting the financial industry?
Although it is believed that quantum computing technology is still in its infancy, the very specific problem of blockchain mining does not require a full-service quantum computing solution. According to the researchers, “a quantum miner is not and should not be a scalable universal quantum computer. A quantum miner only needs to complete one task.”
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that it was possible to create miners using existing quantum technologies, demonstrating a quantum advantage over classical computers.
Despite the potential energy savings, it should be noted that the researchers have focused on a type of quantum computing system called a “noisy medium-scale quantum system” (NISQ).
According to the preprint, quantum miners should demonstrate “enormous” energy savings at around 512 quantum bits, or “qubits,” a term somewhat analogous to classical computing bits.
However, typically NISQ systems only work with 50-100 qubits, although there is no industry standard.
While energy savings may be feasible, the cost of building and maintaining a quantum computing system in the 512 qubit range has traditionally been prohibitive for most organizations.
Only D-Wave and IBM offer customer-facing systems in the same range (D-Wave D2 is a 512-qubit processor, while the IBM Osprey weighs 433), but their architectures are so different that comparison between their number of qubits is supposedly meaningless. nonsensical.