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Proof of Space: BitTorrent Creator Publishes Eco-Friendly Mining Paper

BitTorrent developer Bram Cohen has published a new white paper that envisions an eco-friendly alternative to bitcoin’s energy-intensive proof-of-work computational process.

Dubbed “proof-of-space,” the method relies on disk space rather than computational power as the main resource for mining (the process by which new transactions are added to a blockchain) creating what is claimed to be a less ecologically damaging and more economical alternative to proof-of-work.

Cohen spoke to CoinDesk back in March about his efforts to develop the solution, work that set the stage for this week’s white paper release.

The paper, “Beyond Hellman’s Time-Memory Trade-Offs with Applications to Proofs of Space,” outlines the use of proof-of-space to establish a mining process that requires less energy (and the natural resources to produce it). Because of the reduction in energy requirements, as well as the reliance on pre-existing hardware, the proposed method is aimed at making mining accessible to anyone with a computer.

As the paper explains:

“The idea is to use disk space rather than computation as the main resource for mining. As millions of users have a significant amount of unused disk space available (on laptops etc.), dedicating this space towards securing a blockchain would result in almost no waste of resources.”

Under the proof-of-space system, miners allocate some of their unused disk space to the network, with the probability of successfully mining a block being proportional to the amount of space allocated divided by the total capacity of the network.

In addition to Cohen, the white paper credits Hamza Abusalah, Joël Alwen and Krzysztof Pietrzak from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Danylo Khilko from ENS Paris and Leonid Reyzin from Boston University as authors.

It still remains to be seen, however, whether the paper will serve as the basis for a new cryptocurrency, with Cohen telling CoinDesk in March that he doesn’t see much need to create a new one.

“For the most part there shouldn’t be the need [to launch new coins],” he said, adding:

“But I have this idea about underlying mining and how it works that does make it inherently different.”

Hard disks image via Shutterstock

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