Harnessing Energy from Bitcoin Mining to Sequence Genetic Data

Intel has filed a patent for a type of Blockchain system that uses energy from proof-of-work (POW) crypto mining for genetic data sequencing.

Eliminating waste

Bitcoin has frequently been criticized for the network’s high energy use, and waste of energy is in fact one of the leading arguments for proof-of-stake (POS) protocols. Intel is seeking not to reduce Bitcoin’s energy use per se, but to harness the power that’s already being consumed to serve another purpose.

Since miners would be accomplishing two tasks simultaneously -- regular crypto mining and nucleobase sequencing-- the inventors refer to this type of POW as “multipurpose.” Comparing the process to traditional Bitcoin mining, they state:

“The present disclosure, by contrast [to traditional Bitcoin mining] involves a Blockchain protocol which, when implemented in a Blockchain system, enables miners to accomplish additional useful work while generating proofs of work (POWs) for new blocks. In particular, as described in greater detail below, miners determine sequences of nucleobases when generating POWs. And since a miner accomplishes additional useful work while generating a POW, the POW may be referred to as a ‘multipurpose POW,’ and the work to create the POW may be referred to as ‘multipurpose POW operations.’

Patent details

Based on the patent application, the SMP will utilize a nucleobase sequencing unit to determine and establish the order of the nucleobases in a given sample. The result will then be verified by the POW before being permanently recorded on their Blockchain.

The SMP will be used in genetic data sequencing, particularly to determine the sequence of nucleobases in a nucleic acid (DNA or RNA, for example). The physical traits of a person, animal, or plant can be determined based on the order of its nucleobases.

In their patent application -- filed in June, 2016 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on December 14, 2017-- Intel inventors Ned Smith and Rajesh Poornachandran explain how their project addresses the problem of energy waste in cryptocurrency POW mining. According to their application, Intel’s SMP would use the energy spent by crypto miners generating POW to determine nucleobase sequences

Greater good

According to the application, the results of nucleobase sequencing have many potential benefits for society,

“Possibly leading to improved prevention of cancer and other diseases, improved understanding of biological ecosystems, improved tracking of populations and pathology, etc.”


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