polygon (formerly matic network) is a web3 startup creating products to scale ethereum and encourage mass adoption.
The company’s flagship product, the polygon proof-of-stake (pos) sidechain, has become a popular alternative to ethereum due to its low fees and faster transactions.
Polygon is currently developing a set of zero-knowledge stackups (zk stackups) to increase performance on ethereum without sacrificing decentralization or security. zk rollups process transactions off-chain and reduce computation in the base layer for scalability.
This guide will explain how the zk polygon rollups work and what benefits they offer. we will also consider different zk polygon accumulation solutions and compare them with existing zk accumulations.
a zero-knowledge polygon digest is a scaling solution that aggregates multiple off-chain transactions into a single on-chain transaction. the zk polygon digest scheme eliminates the need for that miners on the ethereum mainnet verify individual transactions by generating a proof of validity (or proof of zero knowledge) for each digest.
Because proofs of validity are mathematically provable, the ethereum network can unreliably verify the authenticity of batch transactions. this improves the security of the update rollups, since malicious activity is much more difficult to carry out.
More importantly, proofs of validity (or zero-knowledge proofs) allow immediate confirmation of transactions accumulated on the main chain. users can seamlessly move funds between the digest and the base blockchain (ethereum) without friction or delay.
By contrast, optimistic accumulations (used by optimism and arbitrage) impose a waiting period before users can withdraw funds. this limits the efficiency of the cumulative packages and reduces the value for users.
The polygon network has previously reiterated its commitment to scaling ethereum through zk stacks and plans to invest over a billion dollars in zero-knowledge technology. At least four products in the polygon stack are based on stacks of ZK, including Zero, Hermez, Miden, and Dusk.
In the next section, we review each zk polygon accumulation solution and explain what it offers.
zero-polygon is a zk stackup solution specifically designed to reduce the computational cost of generating validity tests. while zk stackups can increase scalability, their functionality is limited due to the expensive and time-consuming test-generation process.
polygon zero solves this problem by using “recursive tests”, which are faster than existing test systems. These recursive tests come from plonky2, a test mechanism developed by the team behind the mir protocol.
mir protocol was a project exploring recursive zk tests for scaling decentralized applications (dapps) up to team acquisition per polygon. the mir protocol core team continued to work on scalable tests, leading to the release of plonky2 in early January 2022.
recursive proofing systems work differently than existing zk proofing mechanisms. with existing projects, the idea is to test a batch of transactions at a time. however, this can take a long time.
zero polygon takes a different approach by simultaneously generating proofs for each transaction in the batch. The machine then aggregates multiple transaction proofs into a single proof sent on the ethereum network.
This mechanism significantly reduces the effort needed to generate reliable proofs of validity for transaction accumulations. zero polygon’s plonky2 can generate a recursive proof in 0.17 seconds, making it possibly the fastest zk proof generation scheme today.
polygon zero is designed to be compatible with the ethereum virtual machine (evm) and can process batches of up to 3000 transactions per block. Although Polygon Zero has yet to go live, further advances in crypto research may position it as the dominant ZK consolidation project in the Ethereum ecosystem.
polygon hermez is a zk rollup project with decentralization as its main goal, and is said to be the only decentralized zk rollup operating on the ethereum network.
the hermez network uses a novel consensus algorithm, called proof of efficiency (poe), to ensure the decentralization and security of the network. this system consists of sequencers and aggregators, which together ensure the functionality of the summary. sequencers accept transactions and include them in a batch, while aggregators generate zk proofs to send to ethereum.
In the poe system, anyone can become a sequencer or aggregator, and there are built-in cryptoeconomic incentives to encourage honest behavior. this protects the hermez polygon from centralization issues affecting zk rollups and also reduces the chances of malicious activity on the network.
the hermez protocol achieves considerable performance through the use of tried and true zero knowledge technology. it can include up to 2,000 transactions in a batch and generates snark (succinct non-interactive knowledge argument) tests to confirm the validity of transactions in each digest.
hermez 2.0 polygon
Although the Hermez polygon has been active since 2021, usage has remained low. hermez lacks evm support so functionality is limited to simple token transfers and atomic swaps.
but polygon has announced plans to bring evm support to hermez in the future. The project, called “Hermez 2.0”, will see the introduction of a Zero Knowledge EVM (Zkevm) that combines the existing ZK package with an implementation of EVM.
with hermez 2.0, polygon can deliver on its promise to scale ethereum via zk stacks. Already, the hermez polygon team plans to use machine instructions (opcodes) native to evm. This will make it easier for projects to port ethereum based dapps to hermez polygon or launch evm compatible dapps directly into the rollup.
polygon miden is a general purpose zk abstract based on stark with evm support. stark (scalable transparent knowledge argument) is a type of cryptographic proof with similarities to the more popular snark system .
Some consider zk-starks to be better than zk-snarks because zk-starks does not need a trusted configuration and can prevent quantum computing attacks. the downside is that rigid ones require larger tests, making them more expensive to use.
As a summary of evm-compatible zk, the polygon meden is quite unique. other stark-based zk rollups (most notably starknet) cannot support robustness smart contracts, limiting their value to ethereum users.
polygon miden relies on the miden virtual machine (vm) to execute arbitrary logic and run smart contracts. Developers can easily compile code written in Solidity or Vyper into Meden Assembler, the language used to program machine instructions in Meden VM.
polygon measuren can process up to 5,000 transactions in a single block, with new blocks produced every five seconds. Although this zk rollup exists as a prototype for now, it is expected to increase performance to over 1000 transactions per second (tps) at launch.
polygon nightfall is an enterprise stack solution developed to facilitate private transactions for institutions that was launched on the ethereum mainnet on May 17, 2022. the project is the result of a collaboration between polygon technology and corporate giant ernst & young (hey)
polygon nightfall uses a unique digest design that combines optimistic digests and zero-knowledge cryptography. Using optimistic summaries reduces transaction costs, while ZK technology protects transactions from prying eyes.
For large-scale enterprises looking for scalable, private blockchain transactions, polygonal nightfall offers an attractive use case.
nightfall is still in production, though the polygon team recently announced a beta release on the ethereum mainnet. the architecture of the zk rollup is based on the following components:
dusk contracts are smart contracts that govern activity on the l2 chain. they also manage the block proponent system and are responsible for selecting, rotating, and expelling block proponents.
These are nodes responsible for validating and accumulating transactions in batches and then sending them to the l1 blockchain.
Challengers are selected nodes to ensure honest behavior among block proponents. challengers can create proofs of fraud and submit the same on-chain to challenge invalid blocks.
liquidity providers (lps) monitor the l2 chain and provide liquidity to users who want to withdraw to ethereum. lps are critical to how polygon nightfall works, as it solves the issue of delayed withdrawals that plagues other optimistic build systems.
polygon nightfall facilitates the safe and privacy protected exchange of erc-20, erc-1155 and erc-777 tokens. With an estimated rate of 100 tps, nightfall works well for business customers who want to transact quickly and privately on ethereum.
zk polygon digests are different from other zero-knowledge digest designs in terms of speed, cost, and the ability to support evm-compliant computing.
zk polygon rollups are faster
A drawback associated with traditional zk rollups, such as starknet or zksync, is the computational cost of generating validity tests. often the inefficiencies in proofing mechanisms outweigh the benefits of zk stacks.
by contrast, zk polygon summaries are designed to reduce the computational cost of creating tests. one of the polygon zk rollups, polygon zero (using plonky2), can generate recursive zk tests in 170 milliseconds.
zk polygon rollups are supported by evm
Although zksync recently released a zero-knowledge evm implementation, most zk rollups are incompatible with ethereum. For example, using Starknet requires learning Cairo, a Turing complete language for running programs on the Starknet operating system.
The implication is that these systems cannot extend ethereum’s capabilities like polygon’s zk rollups can. users cannot access ethereum-based dapps in such zk rollups, while developers cannot effectively take advantage of ethereum’s network effects.
zk polygon rollups are cheaper to use
Polygon’s Zero Knowledge Cumulative Stack is designed to minimize the costs associated with using l2s. zk rollups often attract criticism because generating validity tests requires specialized and expensive hardware, and these costs are passed on to users.
zk polygon summaries, like zero polygon, aim to simplify test schemes, which would allow even lower devices to participate. for example, the tests for the plonky2 test generation were carried out on a consumer computer.
in addition, zk polygon roll ups offer smaller test sizes than other zk test mechanisms. plonky2, mentioned above, can generate tests as small as 45kb. this not only eliminates hardware centralization, but also reduces the cost burden on end users.
zk polygon rollups are important due to their scalability, lower transaction fees, and security.
zero knowledge rollups are a big part of the push to scale ethereum while preserving decentralization and security. zk-rollups, such as polygon zero and polygon hermez, can increase throughput to thousands of transactions per second.
2. low transaction fees
Exorbitant gas fees have been the main sticking point for ethereum users. By removing main chain transactions and decongesting the network, ZK Polygon Rollups can greatly reduce Ethereum transaction fees.
zk rollups are based on strong cryptography and have a higher security threshold than other rollup designs. Instead of relying on economic incentives or trust assumptions like optimistic rollups, zk rollups rely on cryptographic guarantees to ensure network security.
polygon zk rollups publish transaction data to ethereum, so users can trust ethereum to enforce transactions made on the layer 2 (l2) chain. for this reason, zk rollups are among the preferred solutions to ethereum scalability issues.
Ethereum’s limitations in terms of scalability may limit what developers can achieve. With the gains in processing power from the zk polygon rollup implementation, ethereum developers are likely to find new use cases and expand into new areas.
zero-knowledge rollups are among the most praised solutions to ethereum’s scalability issues. With polygon’s commitment to integrate zk rollups, the possibility of scaling ethereum increases.
zk polygon rollups have the potential to greatly increase ethereum’s processing capabilities and bolster mass adoption. alchemy is committed to scaling ethereum and offers support for developers building on polygon.