Aztec unveils Ethereum Layer 2 network that uses zkSNARKs for both privacy and scalability

Quick Take

  • Aztec 2.0 uses zero-knowledge proofs to bundle private transactions into a rollup.
  • Aztec’s zkSNARKs allow for “programmable privacy.”

Aztec, an Ethereum startup that was initially focused on using zero-knowledge proofs to make transactions private, has unveiled a new Layer 2 platform that uses the same cutting-edge cryptography to improve scalability, too.

Aztec 2.0 is based on an emerging technology known as zero-knowledge(zk) rollup. It employs a type of zk-proof called zkSNARKs to bundle many transactions into a single “rollup” proof that is published to the main chain, thus increasing transaction throughput. The network is "fully scalable" up to 300 transactions per second, according to Aztec.

Other groups are developing zk-rollup technologies aimed at improving Ethereum’s scalability. What makes Aztec’s technology unique, according to CEO Tom Walton-Pocock, is that it also adds “programmable privacy.”

At the heart of Aztec 2.0 is a zkSNARK standard that Aztec’s research team recently developed, called PLONK. The company used PLONK — which Walton-Pocock says has quickly become a widely-used standard within the community developing zkSNARKs — to build a two-layer system for processing transactions.

First, each transaction is made private — the sender, recipient, and amounts are all hidden — using a zkSNARK. Then, those transactions are bundled into a rollup — using additional zkSNARKs. The end result is “SNARKs inside SNARKs,” said Walton-Pocock, who has called this arrangement a “zk-zk rollup.”

Aztec's team says PLONK allows for the development of a “universal” zkSNARK. That means Aztec’s SNARKs can also be programmed to work with “really any Defi interaction where the resulting action is a token,” said Walton-Pocock.

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