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The Polygon type 1 prover is designed for efficient implementation of STARK proofs and verification of Ethereum transactions. It achieves efficiency by restricting the Algebraic Intermediate Representation (AIR) to constraints of degree 3.

The execution trace needed to generate a STARK proof can be assimilated to a large matrix, where columns are registers and each row represents a view of the registers at a given time.

From the initial register values on the first row to the final one, validity of each internal state transition is enforced through a set of dedicated constraints. Generating the execution trace for a given transaction unfortunately yields a considerable overhead for the prover.

A naïve design strategy would be to utilize a single table, which is solely dedicated to the entire EVM execution. Such a table would have thousands of columns, and although it would be a highly sparse matrix, the prover would treat it as fully dense.

Modular design strategy

Since most of the operations involved in the EVM can be independently executed, the execution trace is split into separate STARK modules, where each is responsible for ensuring integrity of its own computations.

These STARK modules are:

  • Arithmetic module handles binary operations including ordinary addition, multiplication, subtraction and division, comparison operations such as ‘less than’ and ‘greater than’, as well as ternary operations like modular operations.
  • Keccak module is responsible for computing a Keccak permutation.
  • KeccakSponge module is dedicated to the sponge construction’s ‘absorbing’ and ‘squeezing’ functions.
  • Logic module specializes in performing bitwise logic operations such as AND, OR, or XOR.
  • Memory module is responsible for memory operations like reads and writes.
  • BytePacking module is used for reading and writing non-empty byte sequences of length at most 32 to memory.

Although these smaller STARK modules are different and each has its own set of constraints, they mostly operate on common input values.

In addition to the constraints of each module, this design requires an additional set of constraints in order to enforce that these common input values are not tampered with when shared amongst the various STARK modules.

For this reason, this design utilizes Cross-table lookups (CTLs), based on a logUp argument designed by Ulrich Haböck, to cheaply add copy-constraints in the overall system.

The Polygon type 1 prover uses a central component dubbed the CPU to orchestrate the entire flow of data that occurs among the STARK modules during execution of EVM transactions. The CPU dispatches instructions and inputs to specific STARK modules, as well as fetches their corresponding outputs.

Note here that “dispatching” and “fetching” means that initial values and final values resulting from a given operation are being copied with the CTLs to and from the targeted STARK module.

Prover primitives

We now look at the cryptographic primitives used to engineer the Polygon type 1 prover, which is a custom-built prover capable of tracing, proving, and verifying the execution of the EVM through all state changes.

The proving and verification process is made possible by the zero-knowledge (ZK) technology. In particular, a combination of STARK1 and SNARK2, proving and verification schemes, respectively.

STARK for proving

The Polygon type 1 prover implements a STARK proving scheme, a robust cryptographic technique with fast proving time.

Such a scheme has a proving component, called the STARK prover, and a verifying component called the STARK verifier. A proof produced by the STARK prover is referred to as a STARK proof.

The process begins with constructing a detailed record of all the operations performed when transactions are executed. The record, called the execution trace, is then passed to a STARK prover, which in turn generates a STARK proof attesting to correct computation of transactions.

Although STARK proofs are relatively big in size, they are put through a series of recursive SNARK proving, where each SNARK proof is more compact than the previous one. This way the final transaction proof becomes significantly more succinct than the initial one, and hence the verification process is highly accelerated.

Ultimately, this SNARK proof can stand alone or be combined with preceding blocks of proofs, resulting in a single validity proof that validates the entire blockchain back from genesis.

Plonky2 SNARK for verification

The Polygon type 1 prover implements a SNARK called Plonky2, which is a SNARK designed for fast recursive proofs composition. Although the math is based on TurboPLONK, it replaces the polynomial commitment scheme of PLONK with a scheme based on FRI. This allows encoding the witness in 64-bit words, represented as field elements of a low-characteristic field.

The field used, denoted by \(\mathbb{F}_p\) , is called Goldilocks. It is a prime field where the prime \(p\) is of the form \(p = 2^{64} - 2^{32} + 1\).

Since SNARKs are succinct, a Plonky2 proof is published as the validity proof that attests to the integrity of a number of aggregated STARK proofs. This results in reduced verification costs.

This innovative approach holds the promise of a succinct, verifiable chain state, marking a significant milestone in the quest for blockchain verifiability, scalability, and integrity. It is the very innovation that plays a central role in the Polygon type 1 prover.

Further reading

  • The STARK modules, which are also referred to as STARK tables, have been documented in the Github repo here.
  • We have documented the CPU component while the CPU logic documentation can be found in the repo.
  • In order to complete the STARK framework, read more about the cross-table lookups (CTLs) and the CTL protocol and range-checks.
  • Details on Merkle Patricia tries and how they are used in the Polygon type 1 prover can be found here. Included are outlines on the prover’s internal memory, data encoding and hashing, and prover input format.

  1. STARK is short for Scalable Transparent Argument of Knowledge 

  2. SNARK is short for Succinct Non-interactive Argument of Knowledge.