The Race to Scale Ethereum with zkEVM Rollups

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Key points to remember

  • zkSync, StarkNet, Polygon zkEVM, and Scroll are some of the best ZK-Rollup projects built with EVM compatibility in mind.
  • Each project addresses issues of throughput, cryptographic proofs, and EVM compatibility levels in its own way.
  • ZK-Rollups are set to become one of Ethereum’s most important scaling weapons over the coming years.

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As Ethereum aims for mass adoption, ZK-Rollup technology has emerged as a strong contender to scale the blockchain, reduce transaction costs, and improve throughput. Crypto Briefing breaks down nour main ZK-Rollups compatible with the Ethereum virtual machine that are currently under development, each of them promising various advantages within the Ethereum ecosystem.

Tackling Ethereum Transaction Fees

Ethereum is facing scaling challenges.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the widespread adoption of Ethereum is the high cost of using the network, which has become an existential problem for blockchain. The rise of DeFi protocols and NFTs has increased the demand for block space on Ethereum. Most transactions cost pennies in 2019, but at the height of the 2021 bull run, activities such as minting NFTs on the blockchain routinely brought in hundreds of dollars. As a result, many retail market players found they were off the network and turned to other networks like Solana, Avalanche or Binance Smart Chain. Today, despite a slowdown in network activity due to market conditions, simple transactions such as ETH transfers cost between $2 and $3, well above Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin. ideal goal less than $0.05 per transaction.

Rollups offer a way to reduce congestion on the Ethereum blockchain. This is because they outsource the off-chain data, process it, and send the transactions back to Ethereum rather than relying on the base chain to process the compute data for each transaction. With rollups, Ethereum only has to check the evidence itself and not the entirety of the data, which frees up block space. Rollups also allow transactions to be grouped together, allowing users to split gas charges.

Accumulations without knowledge, also known as ZK-Rollups, use cryptographic proofs called ZK-SNARKS (“zero knowledge succinct arguments of knowledge”) to show the Ethereum mainnet that a transaction has been processed. These zero-knowledge proofs can be verified quickly even if the underlying data would take a long time to analyze.

Some ZK-Rollup projects currently in development have announced their intention to be compatible with the Ethereum virtual machine, giving Ethereum developers a way to import their smart contracts into the rollup without modifying them. But like Buterin Explain In a recent blog post, not all zkEVM projects are structured the same: some are optimized for full EVM composability, and others for fast throughput.


Developed by Matter Labs, zkSync is one of the most anticipated zkEVM projects. With 2,000 transactions per second, a 10-minute processing time between the rollup and the Ethereum mainnet, and no upper limit to the value the rollup can safely handle, zkSync is a leading zkEVM project.

Despite its marketing, zkSync is not technically compatible with EVM, but rather with Solidity and Vyper, two coding languages ​​used on Ethereum. The difference, although small for users, is important for developers: among other things, contract addresses may differ, handwritten EVM code may not be supported, and debugging infrastructure may not necessarily be transferred.

The rollup is currently live on the Ethereum testnet. The mainnet launch is expected to take place in three stages: “Baby Alpha” in November, during which the system will undergo real-money stress tests with no external projects involved; the Fair Launch, which will host all projects in the Ethereum ecosystem but will limit user access; and Full Alpha, expected before the end of the year. A zkSync token is expected, although details have yet to be announced.


StarkWare’s StarkNet is another major contender in the zkEVM arena. While StarkNet uses Cairo as its native coding language, a team is developing a Solidity to coding translator called Cairo transpiler, which means that, much like zkSync, the rollup will eventually be compatible with Solidity rather than EVM.

However, the similarities end there. StarkNet uses another type of cryptographic proof called STARK (“evolving transparent arguments of knowledge”). ZK-STARKs are theoretically safer than ZK-SNARKs but take longer to verify, take up more block space, and require more gas. StarkWare is the primary driver for technology development based on STARK.

An authorized version of StarkNet went live on the Ethereum mainnet in February 2022. The StarkWare team has also announcement recently that StarkNet will have its own governance and utility token. While there are no official figures on StarkNet’s expected throughput at full capacity, StarkWare claims that stacking could reduce gas fees on Ethereum by a factor of 100-200.

Polygon zkEVM

Polygon is an Ethereum scaling solution with a flexible framework that allows developers to build and connect layer 2 infrastructure such as Optimistic Rollups and ZK-Rollups to the Ethereum network. In August 2021, Polygone acquired the ZK-Rollup Hermez Network project for $250 million; the company announcement a year later, he was working on his own ZK-Rollup, Polygon Hermez, which would work alongside his Proof-of-Stake Matic chain. Last month, Polygon announced that Polygon Hermez had been renamed Polygon zkEVM and would be heading to mainnet in early 2023.

Polygon claims its zkEVM will be able to handle up to 2,000 transactions per second and reduce transaction costs by 90%. The project code has been made open-source; a public testnet is expected soon.

Source: Polygon

Unlike zkSync or StarkNet, Polygon’s ZK-Rollup does not intend to limit itself by only being compatible with Ethereum coding languages, but with the EVM itself. Polygon zkEVM replicates the EVM rather than mirroring it. This implies that vendors may still need to adapt code and tooling frameworks for deployment, but to a lesser extent than on zkSync and StarkNet.

Alongside its ZK-EVM project, Polygon is also developing an Optimistic Rollup (Polygon Nightfall), a STARK-based ZK-Rollup (Polygon Miden), and a speed-optimized EVM-compatible ZK-Rollup called Polygon Zero.


The ZK-Rollup aiming for the best integration with the EVM is Scroll. A relatively new project, Scroll can be considered truly equivalent to EVM; the only significant difference between the two is the execution environment, i.e. the subsystem in which the contracts are executed. However, the high composability comes at the cost of significant computational overhead, indicating that Scroll’s performance might be lower than that of zkSync, StarkNet, and Polygon.

The Scroll team has yet to release any details about the project, but on July 18 called on developers to sign up to try out the Scroll testnet, which is expected in Q3 2022. The Scroll team is developing the project in collaboration with the Ethereum Foundation. The website claims that security, transparency, and EVM equivalence are its top priorities.

More ZK-Rollups

Other groups researching ZK-Rollups include the Ethereum Foundation Privacy and Scaling Exploration Team and a yet unknown team initiative affiliated with ConsenSys. While research may contribute to existing projects and not necessarily lead to new projects, recent breakthroughs in zero-knowledge proof technology may result in multiple ZK-Rollups in the Ethereum ecosystem. Although the Ethereum network still has a long way to go in terms of scaling, the rise of new zkEVM projects should benefit developers and users alike, as they are presented with more solutions to meet different business cases. ‘use.

Disclosure: At the time of writing this article, the author of this article owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies.

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