On Payment Channels in Asynchronous Money Transfer Systems

Authors Oded Naor, Idit Keidar

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Oded Naor
  • Technion, Haifa, Israel
Idit Keidar
  • Technion, Haifa, Israel

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Oded Naor and Idit Keidar. On Payment Channels in Asynchronous Money Transfer Systems. In 36th International Symposium on Distributed Computing (DISC 2022). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 246, pp. 29:1-29:20, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2022)


Money transfer is an abstraction that realizes the core of cryptocurrencies. It has been shown that, contrary to common belief, money transfer in the presence of Byzantine faults can be implemented in asynchronous networks and does not require consensus. Nonetheless, existing implementations of money transfer still require a quadratic message complexity per payment, making attempts to scale hard. In common blockchains, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, this cost is mitigated by payment channels implemented as a second layer on top of the blockchain allowing to make many off-chain payments between two users who share a channel. Such channels require only on-chain transactions for channel opening and closing, while the intermediate payments are done off-chain with constant message complexity. But payment channels in-use today require synchrony; therefore, they are inadequate for asynchronous money transfer systems. In this paper, we provide a series of possibility and impossibility results for payment channels in asynchronous money transfer systems. We first prove a quadratic lower bound on the message complexity of on-chain transfers. Then, we explore two types of payment channels, unidirectional and bidirectional. We define them as shared memory abstractions and prove that in certain cases they can be implemented as a second layer on top of an asynchronous money transfer system whereas in other cases it is impossible.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Computing methodologies → Distributed algorithms
  • Blockchains
  • Asynchrony
  • Byzantine faults
  • Payment channels


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