Paper 2018/992

Deconstructing the Blockchain to Approach Physical Limits

Vivek Bagaria, Sreeram Kannan, David Tse, Giulia Fanti, and Pramod Viswanath


Transaction throughput, confirmation latency and confirmation reliability are fundamental performance measures of any blockchain system in addition to its security. In a decentralized setting, these measures are limited by two underlying physical network attributes: communication capacity and speed-of-light propagation delay. Existing systems operate far away from these physical limits. In this work we introduce Prism, a new proof-of-work blockchain protocol, which can achieve 1) security against up to 50% adversarial hashing power; 2) optimal throughput up to the capacity C of the network; 3) confirmation latency for honest transactions proportional to the propagation delay D, with confirmation error probability exponentially small in the bandwidth-delay product CD ; 4) eventual total ordering of all transactions. Our approach to the design of this protocol is based on deconstructing the blockchain into its basic functionalities and systematically scaling up these functionalities to approach their physical limits.

Note: The proofs in the appendices have been completely rewritten and restructured to improve readability. Some results have been strengthened.

Available format(s)
Publication info
Preprint. MINOR revision.
Blockchainsphysical limitsdeconstructionthroughputlatencysecurity
Contact author(s)
dntse @ stanford edu
2018-11-10: revised
2018-10-22: received
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Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Vivek Bagaria and Sreeram Kannan and David Tse and Giulia Fanti and Pramod Viswanath},
      title = {Deconstructing the Blockchain to Approach Physical Limits},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/992},
      year = {2018},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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