Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to zkEVM: What it is and How it Works

What is zkEVM

​​Are you new to the blockchain space and trying to understand zkEVM? This guide will provide you with a thorough explanation of what zkEVM is and how it works. 

We will begin by covering the fundamentals of the Zero Knowledge Proof and Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) before diving into zkEVM, a general-purpose rollup that uses the EVM as its smart contract engine while remaining compatible with the applications live on the Ethereum ecosystem. Let’s get going!

What is a Zero- Knowledge Proof?

Zero-knowledge proofs are cryptographic algorithms that allow users to authenticate the legitimacy of a transaction without providing any information about it. This is accomplished by creating a digital signature that may be used by a third party to validate the transaction while concealing all sensitive information. We have a dedicated article on it.

What is the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is developed in Solidity, an Ethereum-specific programming language. It operates as a runtime environment for smart contracts and DApps. It is basically in charge of processing and confirming transactions on the Ethereum network, keeping track of the network’s state, and making sure that everyone adheres to the consensus guidelines.

EVM runs continouslyually and maintains the status of each block in the Ethereum blockchain. EVM sets the specific rules of updating state from block to block in addition to regulating what nodes can and cannot do to the distributed ledger. It carries the capability to run complex smart contracts on different computing environments with distributed consensus. As the EVM code is the same across all nodes, the failure of a single node does not impact the system.

What is zkEVM and How does it work?

zkEVM, or Zero-Knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machine, allows for   zero-knowledge-proof computation and enables the execution of private smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. It combines Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) capabilities with the privacy-preserving properties of zero-knowledge proofs. zkEVM works by allowing developers to build and deploy zero-knowledge smart contracts on the Ethereum network. This means that the variables like the contract’s inputs, outputs, and computation remain private to the network while being verified by Ethereum nodes.

zkEVM does this by utilizing zk-SNARKs, a sort of zero-knowledge proof that allows the verification of a computation without revealing its inputs and outputs. zk-SNARK is a cryptographic proof system that allows one party to prove to another that a statement is true without disclosing any information about the statement.

When a smart contract is run on zkEVM, it is first converted into a circuit, which is then used to construct a zk-SNARK proof. This proof is made up of two components: a public key and a private key. The private key is kept private by the person who created the contract, and the Ethereum nodes utilize the public key to validate the proof.

How does zk-SNARK generate proof?

  • zk-SNARK uses advanced mathematical functions and encryption techniques to provide proof that a computation is valid without giving any information about it. 
  • It follows a procedure known as “trusted setup,” which involves generating a set of public parameters that are shared by all parties. 
  • These parameters are generated using a complicated, multi-party algorithm, which assures they cannot be altered by a single party. 
  • Once the trusted setup is complete, a prover can utilize the parameters to construct a zk-SNARK proof, which includes a concise cryptographic proof and a verification key.
  • The verifier can then use the verification key to validate the proof without ever seeing the computation’s inputs or outputs.

How is zkEVM different from traditional EVM?

ExecutionUses zero-knowledge proofs to execute smart contracts.Directly executes smart contracts 
SecurityEnhanced security owing to the use of ZK proofs.Security is based on deterministic execution
ScalabilityAs the transactions are batched together, hence, it is highly scalableLimited scalability due to gas fees
PrivacyOffers privacy-preservingprivacy preserving transactions executionNo native privacy features

Scalability is one of the primary benefits of ZK EVM. It enables privacy-preserving computation scaling, which is not achievable with EVM as it has gas fees associated with executing smart contracts.

What are the benefits of zkEVM?

PrivacyzkEVM supports privacy-preserving smart contracts as zk-SNARK allows for computation verification without revealing its inputs and outputs. 
ScalabilityWith the transactions being compiled in a roll-up together, zkEVM improves scalability on the Ethereum network, as it enables off-chain computation. This causes faster transaction times and increased network capacity.
Efficiencyzk-SNARKs enables faster transaction processing and lower fees. Without compromising security or privacy, it allows for fast and efficient verification of computations on the blockchain.
SecurityzkEVM uses complex mathematical functions and encryption algorithms for validation which makes it highly secure, preventing attackers from stealing valuable assets.

Who is Building zkEVM rollups?

Polygon zkEVM

Polygon zkEVM is a Layer-2 scaling solution that aims to make it EVM-equivalence. It allows for frictionless scaling as it enables developers to copy-paste code which is compatible with  Ethereum and use it to build on Polygon zkEVM. Following are the milestones that Polygon zkEVM has conquered in its journey- 

✅ 84K+ wallets

✅ 75+ ZK proofs generated

✅ 5K+ smart contracts deployed

✅ $0.06 as the cost for generating a proof for a large batch of transactions 

Proof times for a batch of hundreds of transactions is around two minutes, with increased throughput expected in the near future. It offers a 90% reduction in fees, fast network finality with frequent validity proofs, coupled with Ethereum security with the additional benefit of L2 batching for scaling. It is set to launch its Mainnet Beta on Mar 27, 2023.

Scroll zkEVM

Scroll is a zkRollup built on top of the Ethereum network to scale it. It consists of two major pieces: the zkEVM, which proves the correctness of EVM execution in Layer 2, and a complete L2 architecture around it.

By Feb 2023, they had processed over 15.4M transactions. It has submitted ~1.8M proven blocks with over 641K validity proofs which have been finalized by their roll-up contract on L1. Their Alpha Testnet is currently live on Goerli.

Scroll is currently valued at $1.8 billion with its recent fundraise of $50M from investors like Polychain Capital, Sequoia China, Bain Capital Crypto, and Moore Capital Management, to name a few.


zkEVM is a novel technology that combines zero-knowledge proofs and the Ethereum Virtual Machine. This allows for the safe and effective processing of confidential data on the blockchain. It is a radical solution that might completely change how blockchain technology is applied. 

zkEVM possesses enormous potential to empower blockchain technology to support a wide range of applications. With its ability to improve security and efficiency, promote transparency and scalability, and enable privacy-preserving smart contracts, zkEVM represents a major step forward for the blockchain ecosystem. 

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