‘Nm’ or nanometers, refer to the gauge of the copper in transistors. The smaller the number of nanometers, the higher the number of transistors that can be squeezed into a CPU. Higher the number of transistors, faster the speed of CPU.
It has been a long journey to 16nm chips that are increasingly being used in the Bitcoin mining today. Intel’s Pentium processors came with 65 nm back in 2006, followed by introduction of 45 nm desktops in 2008, and later 32 nm Sandy Bridge architecture in 2011.
The 14 nm chips came to market in 2015 with the Core i3, i5 and i7 processors.
Bitcoin Mining with 7 nm chips
Rise of ASIC miners
The rise of Bitcoin mining has witnessed two largest players – Bitmain (manufacturer of Antminer series of Bitcoin miner) and Canaan (manufactuer of AvalonMiner) growing to prominence. The two began widespread usage of the incredibly smaller chips, the 14 – 16 nm chips, to the bitcoin mining hardware. This was aimed at garnering higher speeds, using lower power consumption and making lesser noise.
GMO’s Bitcoin ASIC miner
However, now a company called GMO Group is bringing 7 nm chips to the Bitcoin mining hardware market. The four main competitors in the race to manufacture 7 nm chips are Samsung, Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Global Foundries. These chips will be incredibly small, use even lesser electricity and produce more computing power. Additionally, they will also be low on noise.
According to the official announcements, the proposed GMO’s miner with 7 nm chips would be able to deliver 10 TH/s with a power consumption of only 500 W (as compared to Antminer S9’s 14 TH/s at 1,372 W).
The future with 7 nm chips
The 7nm semiconductor chips are very small and can contain more than 20 billion transistors that will enable devices to perform even more complex computations.
Samsung has taken a lead in the development of the 7 nm chips by investing US$4.8 billion in its research and development. TSMC is also a big contender in the race as they have already showcased one of their concept designs.
Many of the four players are targeting the production of 7 nm chips to start by 1Q’2018.
It is expected that in the future, 7 nm chips will take the mining hashrate to a whole new level. Additionally, 7 nm chip technology would be 4x more energy efficient than the current Bitcoin mining industry standard. Thus, once 7 nm chips come into play, one can expect all other miners to upgrade to stay in the market for bitcoin miners.
The disruption to bitcoin mining and the entire computer industry
The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors considers 7 nm chip technology as a disruptive technology iteration. The technology would be a successor to the 14 – 16 nm technology that currently represents the Bitcoin mining industry’s prevailing hardware.
The key reason behind the growing prevalence of bitcoin mining is the increasing acceptability and experimentation with cryptocurrencies and blockchain by large corporations, governments and business consortiums.
The idea of distributed networks (ledgers), whose credibility is authorized by way of mutual monitoring through network participants, as opposed to a centralized system, is gaining acceptance by mature market players.
Entry of Japan
Additionally, the entry of a Japanese player (GMO Group) to an industry dominated by China, is likely to be welcomed by the bitcoin mining industry who have faced reliability concerns with some models of China’s dominating miner, Bitmain.
If the Japanese firm succeeds in keeping its product a secret, it could ultimately wipe the competition off, if they don’t have the same technology.
Either way, the semiconductor space seems set for a transformation in times to come.