By Kristy Dorsey

The University of Glasgow has launched a new £1.3 million research partnership to improve blockchain technology and potentially make it more environmentally friendly.

The tie-up between the university’s James Watt School of Engineering and Chinese technology company Victory Bench Hyperledger will seek to make blockchain – the international digital ledger system for storing, verifying and exchanging information – better-suited for high-volume applications. The rate at which information can currently be added to blockchain-enabled systems is limited, making it unsuitable in areas such as mainstream banking.

The team will develop new algorithms to make blockchain processes easier to perform on less computationally capable devices like mobile phones. That could lead to new protocols for performing “proof of work” calculations that underpin the creation of new units of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, potentially reducing the carbon footprint of this power-intensive process.

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The Moshan Blockchain Lab will be led by the engineering school’s Dr Lei Zhang, with the collaboration running for three years. During the initial course of the project, researchers will also explore how 5G technology can support their new algorithms using the university's Urban Testbed.

“Blockchain technology has a great deal of potential still left untapped, and this collaboration is setting out to solve some of the problems of this evolving technology and expand the possibilities of how it can be used,” Dr Zhang said. “We’ve already begun discussions with university colleagues in computing science, education, healthcare and finance about how we might collaborate in finding new applications for blockchain in their research and teaching.”