How does Ethereum Plasma work?

Ethereum Plasma was proposed by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin along with Joseph Poon. The concept was created as a scaling solution technique for the Ethereum blockchain in August 2017. Along with Thaddeus Dryja, Joseph Poon is also responsible for the formation of Lightning Network, which was a proposed scaling solution for Bitcoin in 2015. Although Lightning Network and Plasma were both proposed as scaling solutions. for blockchains. However, each type has its own mechanism and characteristics.

How does Ethereum Plasma work?
How does Ethereum Plasma work?

Scalability is one of the main points of interest of the Ethereum blockchain. The current limitations faced by the network in terms of capacity and speed make it unacceptable on a larger global scale.

This article will give a brief introduction to Ethereum Plasma, but keep in mind that Plasma alone is an off-chain scaling technique or a framework for building scalable applications, not a project. It can be done in separate ways by different research groups or companies.

Ethereum Plasma and sidechains

The main idea of ​​Ethereum Plasma is to establish a framework of secondary chains that will communicate and interact as little as possible with the main chain (in this case, the Ethereum blockchain). Such a framework is being designed to function as a blockchain tree, arranged hierarchically in such a way that many smaller chains can be created on top of the main chain. These smaller chains are also known as Plasma chains or substrings. Note that the sidechains and the Plasma chains are similar, but not identical.

The Plasma structure is built through the use of smart contracts and Merkle trees, allowing for an unlimited number of child chains to be created – essentially smaller copies of the parent Ethereum blockchain. On top of each substring, more chains can be generated and this is what builds a tree-like structure.

Essentially, each Plasma subchain is a customizable smart contract that can be designed to work in a particular way, serving different needs. This means that chains can operate independently and co-exist. Ultimately, Plasma will make it possible for businesses and companies to deploy scalable solutions in a variety of ways, according to their specific contexts and needs.

Therefore, if Plasma is successfully developed and deployed to the Ethereum network, the main chain will be less prone to congestion as each subchain will be designed to work in a distinct way towards specific goals. possible – not necessarily related to the main chain’s goals. Therefore, the sub-chains will reduce the overall work of the main chain.

Ethereum Plasma and Proof of fraud

Communication between the subchains and the parent chain is secured with proofs of fraud, so the parent chain is responsible for keeping the network safe and punishing malicious actors.

Each subchain has its own mechanisms for validating blocks and specific anti-cheat implementation, which can be built on top of different consensus algorithms. The most popular are Proof of Work, Proof of Stake and Proof of Power.

Fraud proofs ensure that in the event of malicious activity, users can report dishonest nodes, protect their funds, and exit the transaction (which involves interaction with the main chain). In other words, proof of fraud is used as a mechanism through which the Plasma child chain submits a claim to its parent or parent chain.


The Plasma whitepaper also presents a very interesting application of the so-called MapReduce computation. Basically, MapReduce is a set of functions that are very useful in organizing and computing data across multiple databases.

In the context of Plasma, these databases are blockchains, and the tree structure of the chain allows MapReduce to be applied as a way to facilitate data verification in the chain tree, which greatly increases network efficiency.

Ethereum Plasma and mass exit problem

One of the main concerns with Plasma is the Mass Exit problem, which refers to a scenario where multiple users try to exit their Plasma chain at the same time, flooding the original chain and causing network congestion. This can be triggered by fraudulent activity, cyber attacks, or any other type of fatal error that a Plasma subchain or a group of chains can make.

Close thoughts 

Essentially, Plasma is an off-chain solution that attempts to significantly increase the overall performance of the Ethereum network, by creating a tree structure of many smaller chains. These chains will ease the work of the main chain, which can handle more transactions per second.

The decentralized model of linked blockchains as proposed by Plasma has great potential and is currently being tested by many research groups. With proper development, Plasma will likely increase the efficiency of the Ethereum blockchain and provide a better framework for deploying decentralized applications. Furthermore, this idea could also be adapted and implemented by other cryptocurrency networks, as a way to avoid future scalability issues.

Ethereum Plasma is an open source project and can be found in the public repository on their GitHub. Besides Ethereum, there are many other cryptocurrencies and GitHub repository currently working with Plasma. A few examples include OmiseGO, Loom Network, and 4thStateLabs. For more technical and detailed information, you can refer to the official Plasma report or the LearnPlasma website.

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