FPGA Bitcoin Miner Is Probably The Most Power Efficient.

[fpgaminer], [li_gangyi], and [newMeat1] have been working together for the last few months to build an FPGA bitcoin miner that blows GPU mining rigs out of the water in terms of power efficiency. The board requires only 6.8 watts for 100 Mhashes/second, but [li_gangyi]’s blog says the team expects to hit 150-200 Mhashes with some improvements. That’s efficiency GPUs can’t touch.

Bitcoins are a digital currency that are ‘mined’ by calculating hashes that verify bitcoin transactions. While mining operations can be performed on a CPU, graphics cards and FPGAs beat CPUs by several orders of magnitude in terms of how many hashes can be performed per second.

The heart of the board is a Spartan-6 LX150 FPGA – a pricey bit of kit – and the team is selling each board for $440 USD. For that amount of money, you could buy two ATI 6770s at half the price and crunch four times as many hashes a second. At less than 7 watts, though, we wouldn’t worry too much about cooling the rig and the electricity costs will be very low.

62 thoughts on “FPGA Bitcoin Miner Is Probably The Most Power Efficient.

      1. Bitcoins are traceable. They are not guaranteed to be anonymous. People need to realize this.

        They’re main benefit is that they’re decentralized and not dependent on any government or authority.

      1. scam (n): A fraudulent business scheme;

        fraud (n): A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain.

        Bitcoin is completely transparent – from the docs right down to the source code – hence there’s no deceit, hence no fraud nor scam.

        ‘Gambling’ is a more appropriate word.

    1. @rd3i no, this is the way bitcoins are created. Basically, it’s a resource intensive process to “create” bitcoins so that people won’t create too many and saturate the market. It’s actually a pretty complicated process that I don’t 100% understand, but Google is your friend.

      1. its more that recording the transaction history is a resource intensive process
        and they reward (pay) people who donate CPU time by printing 50 bitcoins and giving it to the person who found a hash meeting the goal

    1. I think they were designed by an engineering student and are being assembled in some guy’s bedroom, with a total of 4 boards in existence right now. Oh, and the software is open source and publicly available, so if you already have a suitable board you can compile and run it on that.

    1. No, people are meant to perform this activity. It’s how bitcoins are added to the pool of available currency. And people have long since started to work out faster ways to do it (usually rigs full of gpus). The resources necessary to “mine” a new one increases as more people try, so folks come up with wacky ways like this to try to get ahead of the curve for a little while. Otherwise it’s prohibitively expensive to try to do, as the resource costs alone make it a near zero-sum game.

      It’s all a little silly though. Bitcoins aren’t particularly useful as a currency. People that mine are betting that the currency will still have value by the time they offload it.

      1. I can (And have, several times, to the tune of around $500 worth in the last 2-3 months) buy Amazon and Newegg giftcards with bitcoins… How much more ‘useful’ do they need to be as a currency?

        Whole bloody thing’s gonna implode eventually, but as long as I can use my idle GPUs to make what amounts to free money in the meantime, I’m happy.

        1. You misunderstand the meaning of “idle GPU”, thinking it means “for free”. If your GPU does nothing for you (like rendering games or movie, etc), it does not consume extra electricity, which is a paid service. And when it’s mining, you pay a lot of extra money for KWatts :)

  1. There’s an upside to this over using the pair of ATIs, insomuch as (with the power consumption) it would be more feasible to have a large cluster of these without actually having net losses. Most mining operations end up losing money rather than gaining any, except for cycle-donation pools. That said, automatic speculation on the bitcoin markets is both more profitable at the moment and less computationally intensive. However, if a pool of these was combined with a cycle-donation pool and an automatic trader it probably would pay for itself eventually (which is not true of a single unit).

  2. mining bitcoins is legitimate, its a way to grow its economy. if everyone mined bitcoins, it would be much less profitable to do so since only a finite amount are available to be mined at any time. its controlled via a difficulty quotant of some sort or other, controlling inflation.

    its a shame this board is so expensive. anyone care to do the maths and find out when this becomes more profitable than two ATI cards?

    1. As I said above, I don’t 100% understand the system, but I thought that it didn’t matter how many people were mining, because they could just make it “harder” to mine, meaning more calculations must be done to create them.

  3. some sort of virtual coin that can be use to trade online. it can be exchange for real money. or to buy stuff like in Paypal. this economic system is closed so coins must be inserted into the system in order to allow trading of goods.

    each virtual coin is based on encrypted digital signature that can be manufactured out of thine air with enough CPU power and time. think of it as a blacksmith that manufacture coins from metal, then selling them to the bank or other people.

    the work that been put to the process might be more or less expansive then that coin value, depending on how much coins are there, economic forces and inflation. this manufacturing work is more rewarding as fewer coins available today.

    for more info:

  4. Bitcoins an unsupported currency. as in not backed by a tangible asset (gold, silver, real-estate). those who start with the process in the early stages get more Bitcoins for far less effort than those who come into the process later. Seems to me to be very much like a pyramid sceam. If this operation is legal I think I will start my own and get in on the profit side. Maybe with Buybitcoins.

    1. cash is ALSO a currency not backed by a tangible asset (just the government of your choices promise) it supported by your government, and bitcoin is supported by the bitcoin community. so they are both supported and they are both worth only what someone is willing to pay/accept. thats economics 101. bitcoins are good if and only if people use it, just like cash, or gold, or beads, or shiny rocks if you can give it to someone else and get something from it, it has value. early adopters are rewarded because there is a need to get people using the currency as more people use it more people still will use it (the bandwagon effect…again economics 101)

    2. as in not backed by a tangible asset (gold, silver, real-estate).
      Other currencies not backed by tangible assets:
      * Dollar
      * Euro
      * British Pound
      * Yen

      those who start with the process in the early stages get more Bitcoins for far less effort than those who come into the process later.
      Those who bought Apple shares in the ’90s would make much more money selling them today than someone who just bought them last year.

      Early investors always make more money if the investment succeeds. By itself that a scam does not make.

      To be a scam there must be deceit. There’s no deceit here – nobody promises you anything, and they’re quite clear about it (read the FAQ).

      If this operation is legal I think I will start my own and get in on the profit side.
      Don’t forget declaring them to the taxman. Bitcoins aren’t illegal (yet?), but tax evasion certainly is.

  5. strictly speaking bitcoin’s are not anonymous…but they CAN be. if you cycle wallets after any purchase that involves personal information for instance (though THAT purchase is obviously not anonymous…it can’t be by necessity…) then someone cannot trace your purchases back to a source with personal information and therefore not back to you (though if you dont use a proxy even purchases without personal information can give away more information than you are comfortable with.

    not that this matters to most people mind you, but for the average person it give at least as much anonymity as cash.

  6. Bitcoins are a libertarian social experiment founded on the labor theory of value. The idea is that bitcoins taking work to “mine” makes them valuable. In actuality the only thing that makes them valuable is that people think they’re valuable, but this is beside the point.

    The bitcoin market is so small that individual investors can corner substantial portions of the market. When one of these big investors decide to cash out, the bitcoins plummet in value. Several times bitcoins’ value has halved without warning over the course of an hour.

    Also, the fact that the whole point is to be untraceable has caused some amusing problems. For example, if someone hacks your network and steals the “wallet file” or your hard drive fails you’d have no recourse whatsoever even if there was a regulatory body.

    So basically bitcoins are a return to the micro-currencies of early America (we all know how well those worked for everyone!) engineered by people who either were too convinced of their own brilliance to read up on history or economics, or who are cynically trying to manipulate and profit from people’s ignorance. Either way, the whole thing is a bizarre microcosm of the history of currency drastically sped up.

    1. if someone steals the cash in your wallet there is no recourse. the key is to protect your computer like you protect your wallet. keep your wallet in a truecrypt partition, they can be dicks and delete it most likely, but they cant steal it.
      if you keep it on a flash drive all the better.

      its nice to see someone get their money stolen and go “ha see bitcoin is a scam because someone can hack your computer and steal all your money” but if someone broke into your house and stole your money you wouldnt blame the dollar (or currency of your country)

    1. +1 insightful AND funny!

      PS: bitcoins have been hacked MONTHS ago,,,
      the news told me so. some guy lost like 10000$? because he actually PAID CASH for his bitcoins…

      pyrymid ? no
      deciet ? no
      stealing ? no
      morally wrong ? same as PAPER-money
      (depends on…)

      EDIT: about the paper-money thing:
      dont repeat what i just typed in here kids,
      (about the papermoney), if i was to explain
      why i think it is morally wrong, i’d be
      commiting a federal crime.

      EDIT: EDIT: then again, news also says this:

      1. Bitcoins weren’t “hacked”. Some computers (including a large clearing house) were broken into and wallets were stolen. But the system is solid.

        As long as you keep your wallet safe (encrypted in a thumb drive, for example), there’s no way to steal your BTCs.

  7. Bitcoin: because online drug dealers don’t take credit card.

    I do like the idea of bitcoin though. It’s always bothered me that you can’t send money over the internet without being subject to the policies of a bank or credit card company. Remember the credit card companies cutting off donations to wikileaks?

  8. Transferring money through banks is subject to the spying of several governments, fees, and taxes. Transporting physical cash is also highly regulated. Bitcoin can be used to escape this control. Bitcoin is freedom.

  9. There is a MASSIVE, MASSIVE global banking system that will not gain from this… And will therefore do _everything_it_possibly_can_ to paint it as fraud.

    If I want to exchange my cash, gold, pebbles or shells for information, even digital information, I will do so; I earned it. There’s nothing illegal about that. None the less, expect the propaganda to flow from the Rothschilds down.

  10. interesting, i will have to look into this.

    if the banks would do anything to stop this, the best way would be for the banks to produce massive amounts of it themselves and make it worthless.

  11. If I had found a way to dent SHA256, I think mining Bitcoins would be pretty far down the list of things I would do first.

    In fact call me a cynic, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the whole Bitcoin scheme hasn’t been cooked up by some shady government agency types to test if anyone (else?) has devised a method to weaken SHA significantly.

    1. Couldn’t the system be abused by inserting arbitrary transactions with the purpose of getting the hash cracked? I haven’t read the protocol myself, but it seems like this may be possible.

      1. Interesting idea. However I think Bitcoin uses a hash of a hash, which seems a bit of an arbitrary choice. It just occurred to me looking at it that attempting to factor that would be an interesting academic challenge but with little or no application outside of Bitcoins.

  12. If they can track your wallet usage throug p2p, they can come knock to your door asking you to reveal your wallet. If you have it encrypted with a password, they will torture you until you spit down the password and say to you that your a possible terrorist that is hidding money with bitcoin. And take away all your hashing gear for financing there own operation and decision made by local police chiefs.

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