Intel launching new chip to expand into blockchain and crypto mining

14 Feb 2022

Intel's blockchain accelerator chip. Image: Intel

The tech giant said its new blockchain chip will have 1,000 times better performance per watt for crypto mining than mainstream GPUs.

Intel plans to enter the crypto mining and blockchain space with the launch of a new chip this year.

The company said its new “blockchain accelerator” chip is energy efficient and designed to contribute to the global development of blockchain technologies. Intel noted that many of its customers are looking for sustainable options due to the enormous amount of processing power and energy that these technologies require.

Future Human

Intel senior vice-president Raja M Koduri wrote in a post on Friday (11 February) that the new accelerator will launch later this year. Its first customers will include Argo Blockchain, Griid Infrastructure and Block, the Jack Dorsey-led payments firm that recently changed its name from Square.

“Intel Labs has dedicated decades of research into reliable cryptography, hashing techniques and ultra-low voltage circuits,” Koduri said. “We expect that our circuit innovations will deliver a blockchain accelerator that has over 1,000 [times] better performance per watt than mainstream GPUs for SHA-256 based mining.”

SHA-256 is the hash algorithm used to generate bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

To help its expansion into this sector, Intel has also formed a new team called the Custom Compute Group, within its accelerated computing systems and graphics business unit. This group’s goal is to build “custom silicon platforms optimised for customers’ workloads”, Koduri said.

He added that there have been “exponential increases” in computing performance under Moore’s Law. This is the principle coined Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years, while the cost of computers is halved.

“Blockchain is a technology that has the potential to enable everyone to own much of the digital content and services they create,” Koduri said. “No matter how the future evolves, it is certain the availability of a lot more compute to everyone will play a central role.”

Last week, Intel also announced a $1bn fund aimed at early-stage start-ups and established businesses developing tech for the foundry space. This is part of Intel’s bid to help meet the growing demand for semiconductors amid a global chip shortage.

The company is planning major investments in Europe and announced last month that it is building a massive new chip-making facility in Ohio with an initial $20bn investment.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic