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article image'Green' Bitcoin alternative Chia cuts electricity use

By James Walker     Nov 9, 2017 in Technology
The inventor of the BitTorrent torrent network has announced a new cryptocurrency that's a more eco-friendly alternative to Bitcoin. Mining cryptocurrencies requires massive amounts of electricity. Chia uses a different approach that's less demanding.
Mining Bitcoins is a resource-intensive activity which requires processors to work as hard as they can for hours, days or weeks at a time. This translates to a huge energy usage which can harm the planet. TechCrunch reports Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent, has come up with a solution which uses a different blockchain verification method to cut down on energy waste.
Chia's described as a "better digital money" that's more secure, more decentralised and more energy efficient than the current cryptocurrency leaders. Bitcoin and its contemporaries verify their blockchains using proofs of work. This is to ensure nobody can create a fake blockchain because the cost of doing so would be so high.
Chia uses proofs of time and space instead. These approaches allow it to ascertain the blockchain is genuine without having to continually complete work.
Chia comes with other benefits. There are growing concerns that cryptocurrencies are becoming centralised around certain geographical reasons. This is because the massive electricity demands make it more favourable to mine Bitcoins in some areas than in others.
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Since mining a single block has the same energy consumption as powering an American household for a week, areas with low electricity costs are seeing an influx of Bitcoin mining activity. Similarly, places with naturally cold air are favoured to cut down on ventilation and cooling costs. Despite aiming to be decentralised and widely available, major Bitcoin activity is clustering around certain areas in the same way as regular currencies.
Chia plans to avoid this by cutting down the dependency on electricity supplies. As empty hard drive space is used to demonstrate you "farmed" a new block, participants will be more equally matched and less affected by geographical location. The lower energy consumption will also help the planet and create a more sustainable currency.
Chia's still in development and won't be released to the public until next year. The team is actively recruiting for more people to join the project. Although Chia's not the only blockchain to consider moving away from proofs of work, it is thought to be the first to actually put the concepts into use. It'll be available for "everyone" to invest in as a more accessible and eco-friendly blockchain network.
More about chia, blockchain, bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, Sustainability
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