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Improving the privacy, scalability, and ecological impact of blockchains

Date and Time
Thursday, April 14, 2022 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm
Computer Science Small Auditorium (Room 105)
CS Department Colloquium Series
Jonathan Mayer & Arvind Narayanan

Benedikt Bunz
Blockchains are an exciting area of research that touches on many areas of Computer Science and beyond. This technology has the potential to enable a fast, cheap, and private financial system based on distributed consensus and cryptography, instead of trusted parties.  Despite this potential, the reality still shows severe limitations of blockchains: (i) transactions can cost hundreds of dollars and take minutes to confirm, (ii) some blockchains offer little privacy, and (iii) proof-of-work consensus consumes too much energy.  In this talk, I will discuss powerful techniques that follow a prover paradigm and can mitigate these limitations.  The first technique, called Bulletproofs, is a general-purpose zero-knowledge proof system that is specifically designed to enable confidential blockchain transactions. Bulletproofs requires minimal trust assumptions and gives the shortest zero-knowledge proofs without trusted setup. The system is widely deployed and powers tens of thousands of private blockchain transactions per day.   The second technique, called inner pairing products, is a way to aggregate many zero-knowledge proofs into a single short proof. This can significantly reduce on-chain data, leading to a significant increase in transactions per second that the chain can process.   The third technique is a new concept called a verifiable delay function (VDF) that is vital for permission-less and eco-friendly consensus. VDFs are already deployed in Filecoin and Chia, and are planned for Ethereum 2.0, the upcoming upgrade to Ethereum.

Bio: Benedikt Bünz is a PhD candidate at Stanford University, a member of Dan Boneh’s applied cryptography lab, and a recipient of the Microsoft Research Fellowship at the Simons Institute. His work on the science of Blockchains uses tools from applied cryptography, distributed systems, and algorithmic game theory. His research focuses on building new proof protocols for improving the privacy, scalability, and ecological impact of blockchains. Several of his research results have had a significant industry impact. His work on Bulletproofs, secures tens of thousands of private transactions on Blockchains like Monero or Signal’s Mobilecoin. His seminal work on Verifiable Delay Functions (VDFs) sparked the VDF Alliance, a multi-million dollar initiative composed of academic, non-profit, and corporate collaborators.

This talk will be recorded and live-streamed at https://mediacentrallive.princeton.edu/  

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