A Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display device. Initially created for rendering 2D and 3D images, animations, and video, GPUs have evolved to support a wider range of applications, including gaming, professional content production, and complex computational tasks.
In the cryptocurrency context, GPUs are widely used for mining, which involves solving complex mathematical problems to validate transactions on a blockchain. This process is known as proof-of-work (PoW). While Bitcoin, the most well-known cryptocurrency, is primarily mined using Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), many other cryptocurrencies can be effectively mined using GPUs.
GPUs are preferred for mining certain types of cryptocurrencies due to their ability to perform parallel processing, which is essential for solving cryptographic hashes in mining. Popular GPU mining algorithms include SHA-256, Scrypt, X11, and Ethash. The choice of algorithm depends on the specific requirements and design of the cryptocurrency being mined.
GPUs offer a balance between processing power, electricity consumption, and cost, making them a popular choice for individual miners and smaller mining operations. However, as certain cryptocurrencies like Ethereum have moved from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake consensus mechanisms, the role and profitability of GPU mining in the cryptocurrency ecosystem have evolved.