Mastering Ethereum’s Scalability Challenges: The Promising Path of zkEVM Rollups

Check how Ethereum will solve the issue of high gas fees.

Cristopher Andrade

8/8/20235 min read

To understand ZK-Rollups, a potential solution to these challenges, we first need to explore Ethereum's current scalability limitations. This introduction sets the stage for discussing how Zero Knowledge Rollups, or ZK-Rollups, could address these critical issues.

Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain-based platform that enables the execution of smart contracts and the development of decentralized applications (dApps). Launched in 2015 by Vitalik Buterin and a team of developers, Ethereum pioneered the introduction of smart contracts, which are autonomous programs that automatically execute the terms of an agreement when pre-defined conditions are met. This enables a variety of use cases, from decentralized voting systems to decentralized finance (DeFi) and gaming.

However, Ethereum faces significant challenges in terms of scalability and transaction fees. With the increasing popularity of the network and the growing number of dApps and transactions, Ethereum's ability to process these transactions quickly and at a reasonable cost has been a major struggle. This has led to an increase in transaction fees, known as "gas," that users pay to execute operations on the network. High gas fees can make transactions expensive and inaccessible for many users and limit the large-scale adoption of dApps.

Additionally, Ethereum's scalability has been a significant pain point, characterized by longer transaction confirmation times and a limitation on the number of transactions the network can process per second. This limitation makes Ethereum less efficient and scalable compared to newer blockchain platforms.

To address these issues, several solutions are being developed, including ZK-Rollups. These aim to enhance scalability and reduce transaction fees by processing a large number of transactions outside of Ethereum's main chain (first layer) and placing this information on what is known as the second layer, or Layer 2.

In addition to ZK-Rollups, there are other solutions like Optimism, which will be explained in a future article.

ZK-Rollups run on Ethereum Virtual Machines (EVMs). To fully understand how they operate, it is essential to learn about ZK-EVMs.


The term 'ZK-EVM' refers to 'Zero-Knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machine.' Understanding this concept is easier if you first know what the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is and how it functions.

The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is a Turing-complete virtual machine that executes smart contracts on the Ethereum network. It is responsible for interpreting and running the code of smart contracts written in programming languages like Solidity. The EVM is crucial to Ethereum's operation, ensuring that smart contracts are carried out deterministically and securely across all nodes on the network.

Now, by adding the term "ZK" (Zero-Knowledge) in front of "EVM", we are indicating an additional layer of privacy and security. ZK-EVM solutions are designed to be compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine, meaning that existing smart contracts on Ethereum can run on a scalability layer based on zk rollups without the need for modification.

The main innovation of ZK-EVM solutions is the ability to prove the validity of a transaction or contract without revealing the underlying data. This is achieved using zero-knowledge proofs techniques, which allow a party to prove the truth of a statement without revealing any additional information other than the fact that the statement is true.

Therefore, by combining the Ethereum Virtual Machine with the privacy and scalability features offered by ZK-Rollups, ZK-EVM solutions aim to provide a more efficient, secure, and private experience for Ethereum users. This can help minimize the scalability issues and high gas fees that the Ethereum network currently faces.

Now that we understand what Ethereum, Zero Knowledge Rollups, and the Ethereum Virtual Machine are, let's explore the companies leading in this type of second-layer technology, Layer 2.

StarkWare, ZkSync, and Taiko.


StarkWare's ZK rollup project is a 'layer-2' scaling solution aimed at increasing capacity and reducing fees on the Ethereum network. It processes off-chain transactions and validates them on-chain using zero-knowledge proofs. This approach significantly reduces transaction fees and congestion on the main chain, leading to faster and more cost-effective transactions. StarkWare's ZK rollup technology emphasizes privacy, scalability, and efficiency, and aims for wide adoption in diverse use cases such as decentralized finance and gaming. StarkWare is a leader in the ZK rollups space, at the forefront of developing scaling solutions for the Ethereum network.

StarkWare utilized its StarkEx technology, a scaling engine powered by STARK, to enhance projects like dYdX, a decentralized exchange. This integration enabled the implementation of a Layer 2 solution based on ZK-Rollup, which provides zero-knowledge proofs for data integrity and transaction settlement on this layer. Consequently, this led to a significant reduction in gas costs and an increase in processing capacity, all without

adding extra load on the network. StarkWare's technology was selected for its superior trading experience offered to dYdX users compared to other Layer 2 solutions, as well as its high level of decentralization and security. As a leader in developing scaling solutions for the Ethereum network, StarkWare's work with dYdX showcases the beneficial impact of its technology on the DeFi ecosystem.

I worked at dYdX for years and saw how dYdX became a famous DEX well before the appchain thesis and going to cosmos. ZK-Rollups worked well in v3, which is a rollup for ethereum and still works today, meeting the needs of the decentralized exchange.

dYdX's transition to Cosmos focuses on scalability, but it prioritizes complete decentralization, control over its own blockchain, and increased resistance to censorship.


The zkSync project is a 'layer-2' scaling solution for the Ethereum network, leveraging ZK-Rollups technology. It is distinguished by several key features that set it apart from its competitors. One of the primary advantages of zkSync is its compatibility with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and Solidity. This ensures that existing smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps) on Ethereum can be seamlessly migrated to zkSync without the need for significant modifications.

Privacy and security are paramount in the zkSync solution, which utilizes zk-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge). This technology provides high levels of privacy and security while minimizing the need to trust the underlying Layer 1 infrastructure of Ethereum. Moreover, zkSync excels in processing efficiency, capable of handling up to 100,000 transactions per second. This capability significantly enhances its processing capacity and operational efficiency.

The development team has also introduced two distinct protocols within the zkSync framework: zkSync Lite and zkSync Era. zkSync Lite caters to simple asset transfers and limited interactions with dApps, making it suitable for basic operations. On the other hand, zkSync Era extends these capabilities by enabling native contract execution, addressing the more complex needs of modern dApps.

Overall, zkSync's compatibility with existing Ethereum infrastructure, combined with its focus on privacy, security, high processing capacity, and robust support for smart contracts, renders it an attractive solution for applications that prioritize fast transfers, low cost, and extensive smart contract functionalities.


Taiko is developing a type 1 zkEVM rollup, noted for its full equivalence to Ethereum. This compatibility ensures a seamless and hassle-free experience for developers, allowing them to migrate their existing smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps) to Taiko without modifications. The focus on achieving such high compatibility with Ethereum significantly differentiates Taiko, as it enables straightforward adoption and integration into a variety of applications, from decentralized finance to gaming. With an emphasis on partnerships and large-scale implementations, Taiko aims to broadly disseminate its technology.

ZkEVM (Zero-Knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machine)

ZkEVM represents a technological breakthrough designed to enhance the scalability and efficiency of the Ethereum network. Various types of ZkEVMs exist, each tailored to specific needs and functionalities. For instance, Type 1 ZkEVM offers consensus-level equivalence, fully mirroring the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) infrastructure without any compromises. This complete alignment makes it ideal for applications that require utmost compatibility with Ethereum.

We can conclude that Zk-Rollups are pivotal projects within the crypto market, especially for the Ethereum ecosystem. They potentially replace certain aspects of Ethereum 2.0 updates by focusing on reducing transaction fees. Although these innovations mark significant improvements, they have not yet slowed the momentum of the Zero Knowledge Rollups sector.

If your project aims to scale to millions of users without sacrificing its presence on a dynamic network like Ethereum, employing a rollup service may be essential. This strategy ensures scalability while maintaining engagement with Ethereum's robust ecosystem.

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