A team of researchers from universities in Australia and the United States, in collaboration with quantum technology company BTQ, has just published research proposing a novel proof-of-work (PoW) scheme for a blockchain consensus that is based on quantum computing techniques.
—Peter Rohde (@drpeterrohde) June 1, 2023
baptized as “Proof-of-work consensus by quantum sampling”, the preprint research paper details a system that, according to the authors, “provides spectacular acceleration and energy savings in relation to computation using classical hardware.”
According to the researchers, current algorithms for solving PoW consensus puzzles are slow and require a significant amount of computing resources to process:
“While classic PoW schemes like Bitcoin’s are notoriously energy inefficient, our boson sampling-based PoW scheme offers a much more energy efficient alternative when implemented on quantum hardware.”
According to the document, the quantum advantage provided by this scheme would also increase the difficulty of mining, making it possible to “maintain a consistent block mining time” as the number of miners increases, further incentivizing continued participation of “quantum miners.”
The process the researchers are referring to, boson sampling, is not new, but its application to blockchain technology seems novel. Boson sampling has been shown promising in numerous quantum computing applications. However, as a non-universal quantum computing solution (has to be used in a system built for a specific task), its potential has been limited to a few select fields, such as chemistry.
However, according to the researchers, it may be the perfect solution to future-proof blockchain applications and potentially reduce the environmental impact of mining on the Bitcoin network and similar chains.
Aside from the quantum advantage, quantum hardware also has an advantage over old-school computers due to the nature of how blockchain network mining works.
One of the current advantages of classical supercomputers over their new quantum cousins is the ability to “precompute” by dealing with the same kind of problem on a regular basis. But, when it comes to blockchain, that precomputation is essentially useless.
Mining is, as the researchers say, a problem that “does not progress.” No matter how many times a blockchain puzzle is solved to provide proof of work, the computer and algorithms that process the challenges never get better at solving the problem.
This means that quantum computers, despite being notoriously difficult to develop and expensive to build and maintain, would ultimately be able to validate consensus more efficiently than more advanced classical systems.
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