From Teslas and human heat to vintage tech and repurposed waste, delve into the most unusual crypto mining methods.
Since its inception, cryptocurrency mining has been primarily characterized by powerful computer rigs solving complex algorithms to earn digital coins. However, as the world of cryptocurrencies has grown, so has the innovation and methods surrounding its mining techniques.
To maximize returns and minimize costs, many people have looked for alternative methods that differ from traditional approaches. The result is an array of unconventional and sometimes surprising strategies to mine these digital assets.
Mining crypto with a Tesla
When one thinks of a Tesla Model 3, images of cutting-edge technology and smooth rides may come to mind. But for Siraj Raval, this vehicle presented a unique opportunity not just for transport but for cryptocurrency mining.
Going beyond traditional methods, Raval’s approach to mining has been nothing short of audacious. Using the power socket of his car, he successfully ran Bitcoin mining software on his Apple Mac mini M1. But the experimentation didn’t end there.
Taking a bolder step, he transformed the “frunk” (front trunk) of his Tesla into a hub for graphics processing units (GPUs), directly feeding off the car’s internal battery.
While many would question the prudence of using a luxury car for such a purpose, potentially voiding the warranty, the results spoke for themselves. According to Raval, at the peak of Ethereum’s (ETH) value in 2021, his Tesla-assisted setup raked in an impressive $800 a month.
But is this method sustainable and, more importantly, replicable? Alejandro de la Torre, a seasoned Bitcoin (BTC) miner, told CNBC that at its core, mining from a Tesla doesn’t differ from other setups; it all boils down to electricity costs.
Whether one sees Raval’s approach as a stroke of genius or a fleeting gimmick, it’s undeniable that he’s pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the crypto realm.
Harnessing human heat
Cryptocurrencies often evoke images of high-tech realms. However, Manuel Beltrán’s audacious experiment fuses the digital with the organic, proposing a future where our very biology drives digital finance.
Leading the Institute of Human Obsolescence (IoHO), a Dutch-based research entity, Beltrán unveiled an intriguing proposal: mining cryptocurrencies using human body heat.
Their method is deceptively simple. Participants wear a specialized bodysuit embedded with thermoelectric generators. As the human body radiates heat, a stark 100 watts at rest, the suit captures this energy, converting the otherwise wasted 80% into usable electricity.
This power, in turn, fuels a computer designed for one purpose: mining cryptocurrencies.
Over a test period of 212 hours, involving 37 volunteers, the team impressively harnessed 127.2 watts. This energy successfully mined various digital tokens, including Vertcoin and Ethereum. However, the digital titan, Bitcoin, remains elusive due to its demanding energy needs.
While critics might debate the scalability and practicality of such a venture, Beltrán’s challenge is philosophical as much as it is technological. In a world where data translates to currency, why shouldn’t individuals, the primary generators of this data, benefit directly?
In fact, in 2020, Microsoft filed a patent called “Cryptocurrency system using body activity data”. The tech giant’s proposal involved using brain waves or body heat emitted when using various gadgets, smart watches, or other devices. According to the proposal, it could eliminate the need for energy-intensive mining processes found in traditional cryptocurrency systems.
Mining Bitcoin with Apollo-era tech
Ken Shirriff, a self-confessed hardware enthusiast, always showcased an affinity for vintage computing. When he took to restoring an Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) from NASA’s celebrated lunar missions, an intriguing idea struck him: Could this 1960s marvel mine Bitcoin?
However, the AGC posed a unique challenge. Designed as one of the pioneering computers with integrated circuits, it swapped room-sized dimensions for a compact, boxy footprint.
Despite its minuscule size, it was monumental in 1966, aiding NASA with real-time spacecraft control, all the while enduring the rigors of space travel. Its architecture, boasting 5,600 electronic gates, could manage just over 40,000 basic additions per second. A feat in its time but mere child’s play by contemporary standards.
Shirriff, not aiming for the stars but rather for a challenge, reprogrammed this space-age marvel to mine Bitcoin. However, modern systems contribute a staggering 70 quintillion hashes per second to mine Bitcoin. In stark contrast, the AGC produced one hash in 10 seconds.
To put it in perspective, Shirriff quips that the AGC would need to operate for “4×10^23 seconds” – or about a billion times the universe’s age – to successfully mine a block.
While Shirriff’s experiment is unlikely to yield Bitcoin gold, it aptly captures his passion: repurposing ancient tech in a whimsically modern context.
Bitcoin mining in Iran’s mosques
Bitcoin mining took an unusual turn in Iran. In June 2019, Tavanir, an Iranian electricity company, noted an alarming 7% surge in power consumption, tracing it back to illicit Bitcoin mining operations.
By early June, reports suggested that some of these miners were audaciously tapping into free electricity supplied to places of worship, particularly mosques.
Rewinding to August 2018, Iran’s Senate Standing Committee on Power had guaranteed free electricity to mosques. However, this came with a caveat: mosque leaders must condemn the unlawful use of power.
Despite clear regulations, the allure of cryptocurrency mining remained tempting. A significant line-up of miners was discreetly nestled within this sacred space, projected to generate $260,000 annually.
Adding fuel to the fire, there had been an influx of miners from Europe and Asia into Iran, attracted by its exceptionally cheap electricity rates, as low as $0.006 per KWh. Moreover, sanctions levied against Iran by the U.S., especially after the downing of a U.S. drone in June 2019, further amplified the demand for cryptocurrencies.
Although the act of mining inside mosques blatantly defies governmental warnings, it also poignantly underscores the lengths to which individuals might go to harness the potential of cryptocurrencies in turbulent economic times.
A solution to the tire disposal problem?
A grave environmental challenge we face today is tire waste. With up to 300 million tires discarded yearly in the U.S. alone and an alarming 10% of manufactured tires deemed unfit due to stringent standards, the need for sustainable tire disposal is pressing.
Current disposal methods — burning, burying, and grinding — pose various environmental threats. For instance, burning releases toxic fumes, while buried tires can contaminate the soil.
Product Recovery Technology International (PRTI), a company founded in 2013, has developed a new Thermal DeManufacturing process to help solve the problem.
Instead of viewing tires as waste, PRTI sees them as “round batteries” containing a goldmine of energy. Their process decomposes waste tires into four valuable commodities: solid fuel, oil, gas, and steel. The company then leverages the energy derived from these tires by setting up microgrids capable of producing 8 to 10 MW per site.
A striking feature of PRTI’s approach is its embrace of bitcoin mining. By building a small data center on-site, the energy from the tires is channeled to mine Bitcoin.
This challenges the mainstream critique of Bitcoin’s environmental impact. PRTI’s model turns waste into wealth, utilizing otherwise discarded energy to bolster the Bitcoin network.
Chris Hare, CEO of PRTI, envisions the microgrids as a more localized energy solution that could complement larger energy infrastructures.
While PRTI claims to have already processed approximately two million tires by May 2022, its ambitions soar higher. With plans for expansion in the U.S. and abroad, the company aims to tackle the tire problem on a global scale.