Blockchain & Contracts

While traditionally the Internet was designed as a highly decentralized system, most of today's Internet services are central platforms that are controlled by global organizations. Examples include services offered by Google, Facebook, Uber and many more. Consequently, the majority of (private) data is controlled by a small group of players thereby endangering privacy, fair market competition and eventually future innovation. Blockchain technology -- originally inspired by decentralized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum -- offers the infrastructure and technology to allow a shift towards a decentralized autonomous society. In addition, because research on Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies is still largely in its infancy, it offers great potential to carry out interdisciplinary research. In our research we build foundations for blockchain technology and develop novel applications for, e.g., the Internet of Things, Fintech and secure autonomous systems. Concretely, we are currently investigating the following research areas:

“Scalable'': Scalable blockchain infrastructure

Two important disadvantages that hinder Blockchain technology to get applied at large scale are: (i) its huge amount of energy consumption to carry out the proof-of-work computation; and (ii) the limited number of transactions that can be processed by the network. For instance, the VISA network processes up to 47.000 transactions per second, while Bitcoin is currently limited to only 7 transactions per second. The goal of this project is to overcome these bottlenecks by applying techniques from cryptography and develop highly scalable blockchain technology for large scale decentralized systems.

”Contracts'': Foundations of Smart Contracts and Applications

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum allow users to execute so-called smart contracts that can be used to describe arbitrary self-enforcing contracts. As the recent DAO fiasco illustrates, it is highly complex to design and develop smart contracts that are guaranteed to execute as intended by their developers. We establish foundations for secure smart contract design and development. To this end, we provide an abstract modelling of smart contract functionalities, and describe pseudocode that provably implements these functionalities.

"Autonomy'': Blockchain-based secure autonomous systems

The Internet of Things (IoT) is characterized by myriads of “devices” that form smart systems interacting with each other in a fully autonomous way. Because Blockchain technology enables to secure decentralized systems, it is commonly viewed as an important building block for enabling an autonomous society. Possible applications are for Smart Logistic, Smart Mobility, Smart Energy and many more. In our research we develop Blockchain technology that is particularly suited for applications in the industry and the public sector.

Research highlight

The Perun Network: Blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum can only process a small number of transactions per second. Moreover, finalization of transactions can take up to several minutes. The Perun network addresses these fundamental challenges by building so-called off-chain protocols and outsourcing the massive amount of transactions to a second network layer that is secured by the underlying blockchain. It is based on basic research carried out jointly by the TU Darmstadt and Warsaw University, and currently implemented as part of a TU Darmstadt spin-off. The latter is funded by the BMBF as part of their StartUpSecure program. The Perun project is also partially sponsored by the Ethereum Foundation and Bosch Research.

We have multiple exciting job openings including positions for developers, researchers, Master thesis and HiWi positions. Contact us in case of interest.

Further information is available at Perun Network.

Key publications

  • Stefan Dziembowski, Lisa Eckey, Sebastian Faust, Daniel Malinowski: Perun: Virtual Payment Hubs over Cryptocurrencies. IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy 2019: 106-123
  • Poulami Das, Sebastian Faust, Julian Loss: A Formal Treatment of Deterministic Wallets. ACM CCS 2019: 651-668
  • Stefan Dziembowski, Sebastian Faust, Vladimir Kolmogorov, Krzysztof Pietrzak: Proofs of Space. CRYPTO (2) 2015: 585-605
  • Poulami Das, Lisa Eckey, Tommaso Frassetto,David Gens, Kristina Hostáková, Patrick Jauernig, Sebastian Faust, Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi: FastKitten: Practical Smart Contracts on Bitcoin. USENIX Security Symposium 2019: 801-818