In June 2018, chips with 7 nm transistors, simply called 7 nm chips, began mass production. These chips still haven’t reached the consumer market but two crypto mining companies from Japan, GMO Internet and Triple-1, have developed crypto mining rigs which use 7 nm chips. These rigs are expected to be released by the end of 2018, and will fundamentally be the next evolution of crypto mining tech.
Currently, the conventional standard in crypto mining is 16 nm chips. Triple-1’s mining rigs created with 7 nm chips consume energy at 0.5 W/GH, 50% less than a 16 nm rig. Also, each chip has 300 GH/s, 5.2X more than a standard 16 nm chip of the same size. This is due to the fundamental nature of transistors and Moore’s law, the more transistors you can pack onto a chip the more processing power it has.
The CEO of Triple-1, Takuya Yamaguchi, sums up the power and efficiency of these new 7 nm chips nicely: “Although mining capacity is more than four times that of conventional products, power consumption is expected to be halved at maximum.”
Clearly, 7 nm chips will change the mining game, making rigs more powerful than ever before while consuming far less electricity. This should help continue the exponential increase of Bitcoin’s hash rate, and will eventually make mining rigs with 16 nm chips or greater obsolete.
As of now, 7 nm chips are the smallest transistors in mass production. 5 nm chips have been produced in laboratories and are scheduled for mass production around 2020. Transistors smaller than 5 nm might be possible, but quantum tunneling is starting to become a serious issue.
Quantum tunneling is when a transistor is so small that electrons can go through the physical barriers in the transistor. This is because electrons are both a wave and a particle, and an electron’s wave is dampened at a physical barrier but it take some distance into the barrier to stop completely. If a transistor is so small and an electron’s wave function extends to the other side of the barrier, then electrons will teleport through the transistor’s physical make-up.
If a transistor is so small that quantum tunneling is occurring, then the transistor becomes useless. Transistors have to properly channel electrons 100% of the time for a computer to work. Therefore, this will put an end to Moore’s law, which says the number of transistors on a chip of the same size doubles with a set frequency over time.
This means that after 7 nm mining rigs there will probably be 5 nm mining rigs, and perhaps as low as 3-4 nm rigs since those chips have also successfully been created in labs. However, chips and mining rigs will hit the quantum tunneling limit after that and get no more efficient. Fortunately, there are still several years until the limit and rigs will continue to periodically get much stronger as chips with smaller transistors are unleashed. This will keep the mining industry healthy. Each new wave of rigs with smaller transistors will be an opportunity for crypto miners.
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