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Traveling through space and time: The Chia blockchain

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The Chia blockchain operates with low levels of computing power and doesn’t require its participants to stake tokens. So how does this “green” blockchain work and what actually makes it green?

What problem is Chia Network trying to solve?

PoW blockchains, like Bitcoin, require huge computing resources and energy. BTC miners now consume more electricity annually than some countries.

Networks trend towards centralization while using the Proof of Stake consensus algorithm. The barrier to entry for new validators is often high, meaning that participants need to stake a significant amount of tokens in order to participate in the “life” of the network and earn.

Created by Bram Cohen, Chia Network offers an alternative to both PoW and PoS – a blockchain that doesn’t use large amounts of computing power and provides an accessible experience for network nodes.

All you need to become part of Chia Network is space on your hard drive. That’s it.

How does it work?

Chia uses the Proof of Space and Time (PoST) “mining” method. We’ve put mining in quotes because there’s no actual mining involved. Instead of proving your work as in PoW, or proving your ownership with PoS, Chia network participants prove that they have space. This is why Chia calls them “farmers” instead of miners.

We won’t delve too deep into the technical details here (we’re planning to look at them in a separate article on PoST). Instead, let’s focus on the basics. In order to become a farmer, you need to prove that you have the required amount of disk space. To do this, the hard drive is divided into sections – so-called “plots” of a predetermined size – each of which contains solutions to cryptographic problems. Creating plots can take quite a long time, but computing resources are not required afterwards.
Put simply, plotting turns your hard drive into a field where your crypto harvest can grow. The number and size of the plots is proof of the volume you’ve committed.

After the plots have been created, the next stage begins. Harvesting doesn’t actually require any calculations in order to function. The network generates a “challenge” based on data from previous blocks, which is a value that farmers must locate on their plots. The more plots a farmer has, the more likely they are to find the right “answer” on them.

If Proof of Space was used alone, nodes with large volumes of plots could in theory provide solutions too quickly or even attempt to trick the network into thinking they’d found what they were looking for. To prevent this, the network deploys its Proof of Time, also known as a Verifiable Delay Function (VDF).

When a farmer tells the network that the challenge value has been found, they provide it to a network participant known as a timelord. This node begins carrying out calculations using the data received. The mathematical operation that the node executes cannot be accelerated by simply adding computing power. While the timelord is doing their calculations, no new blocks can be added.

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The economy and farming

The network launched in March 2021 and in May 2021, transactions went live and XCH was listed on a number of exchanges. 
There is no hard cap on the token’s supply and a halving event occurs every three years, whereby the token reward is halved in order to combat inflation. Over the course of the first 12 years of the project, the halving events will take place at the end of every third year. From year 13 – in 2034 – halving will stop.

Chia isn’t the fastest blockchain, processing around 20 transactions per second, but it is inexpensive. Transaction fees currently stand at around $0.01.

The barrier to entry for farming is low. Nodes can run on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer. You can use special calculators like chiacalculator.com and xchscan.com/chia-farming-calculator to calculate your potential earnings.

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The network allows farmers to join a “collective farm” and become part of a farming pool. You pay a small commission, but the flow of funds is likely to be more stable.

One thing you should remember here is that you’ll need to recreate your plots before joining a pool. The flipside is that some plots offer better plot archiving, which means you can fit more plots into the same amount of hard drive space.

Chia Primitives

NFT1 

Chia allows you to mint non-fungible tokens using the NFT1 standard. There are no smart contracts on the blockchain, however, meaning that these NFTs are “smart coins” managed by their owner alone. Since there is no main smart contract that the tokens communicate with, the NFTs are more decentralized than on other networks.

After an NFT has been created on Chia, its royalty terms cannot be changed. NFTs on Ethereum, meanwhile, can be wrapped, allowing their original terms to be modified.

DataLayer

DataLayer is a decentralized data store resistant to fraud and interference. When using DataLayer, users can store data locally, but its hash is placed in a special structure called a singleton. This hash serves as proof of the data's authenticity and integrity. DataLayer integrates with smart contracts, making it a powerful tool for use in any industry, from supply chains to financial operations.

VPB

VPB (Virtual Private Blockchain) combines the benefits of control and privacy found in a private blockchain while maintaining the security and immutability of a public blockchain. This allows organizations to use blockchain more flexibly while ensuring a high level of security and traceability. VPB also offers additional features such as fast transactions and reduced fees.

Offers

Offers is a p2p exchange feature from Chia which allows two individuals who have never met to make deals in such a way that neither party can deceive the other. Offers can be accepted directly from the Chia wallet. Unlike centralized exchanges, which require the transfer of digital assets to an exchange account (posing potential risks), Offers ensures user-side security and control.

Conclusion

Chia is an interesting project. There is no need to purchase expensive hardware or expend electricity on power-hungry ASICs and cooling farms, while the right equipment will last for years. Unlike PoS, there is no requirement from PoST to stake significant amounts.