HomeCryptoMy Polkadot, Substrate, and Rust Adventure: Polkadot Architecture

My Polkadot, Substrate, and Rust Adventure: Polkadot Architecture


Polkadot Architecture

Week 1

So this is my first day of this course, I decided to put my notes on Medium and on-line, so I can illustrate what I am learning. This is only for my notes as I take the course and commentary about what I already knew and comments on the relations to other Blockchains.

The Layout of the Chain

Polkadot is a heterogeneous multichain with shared security and interoperability.

Relay Chain — A Layer 0 Blockchain

The Relay Chain is the central chain of Polkadot. The Relay Chain has deliberately minimal functionality — for instance, smart contracts are not supported. The main responsibility is to coordinate the system as a whole, including parachains. Other specific work is delegated to the parachains, which have different implementations and features.

In the Layer 0, deliberately imposing minimal functionality, like no smart contracts or other programs reduces the vectors of attack on Layer 0.

Parachains and Parathreads

Polkadot can support a number of execution slots. These slots are like cores on a computer’s processor (a modern laptop’s processor may have eight cores, for example). Each one of these cores can run one process at a time. Polkadot allows these slots using two subscription models: parachains and parathreads. Parachains have a dedicated slot (core) for their chain and are like a process that runs constantly. Parathreads share slots amongst a group, and are thus more like processes that need to be woken up and run less frequently.

One advantage of the parachain/parathread dynamic is since the parachain is determined by an expensive auction progress, that involves staking DOT to be awarded with Polkadot interoperability. Whereas a parathread allows a pay DOT as you go for Polkadot interoperability. This allows for smaller or no budget projects to get involved.


Validators are the Relay chain nodes , if elected to the validator set, produce blocks on the Relay Chain. They are incentivized to act in the best interests of the network through rewards.

This is where everybody should want to be, running a active Validator that produces blocks on the chain, and earns staking rewards in the form of DOT, if aligned with the network and slashed if not. It should be noted that Nominators play a role in the effective mass of a Validator and its chance to be selected as an active Validator. Validators can be seen as the employers and Nominators can be seen as the employees.


Collators are full nodes on both a parachain and the Relay Chain. They collect parachain transactions and produce state transition proofs for the validators on the Relay Chain. They can also send and receive messages from other parachains.

Where Validators / Nominators build the block, a Collator authenticates proofs for the block, verifying it is indeed a valid block.


A blockchain bridge is a connection that allows for arbitrary data to transfer from one network to another. These chains are interoperable through the bridge but can exist as standalone chains with different protocols, rules, and governance models. In Polkadot, bridges connect to the Relay Chain and are secured through the Polkadot consensus mechanism, maintained by collators.

Bridges are the holy grail and the mechanism of true interoperation with other networks and their respective blockchains. Polkadot to Cosmos for example. They are also the number 1 target for big paydays from hackers.

Polkadot utilizes a central chain called the relay chain which communicates with multiple heterogeneous and independent sharded chains called parachains (parallel chains). The relay chain is responsible for providing shared security for all parachains, as well as trust-free interchain transactability between parachains. In other words, the issues that Polkadot aims to address are those discussed above: interoperability, scalablility, and weaker security due to splitting the security power.

Parachains — Layer 1 Blockchains

A parachain is an application-specific data structure that is globally coherent and validatable by the validators of the Relay Chain. They take their name from the concept of parallelized chains that run parallel to the Relay Chain. Most commonly, a parachain will take the form of a blockchain, but there is no specific need for them to be actual blockchains. Due to their parallel nature, they are able to parallelize transaction processing and achieve scalability of the Polkadot system. They are fully secured by the relay chain and can communicate with other parachains.

Parachains are maintained by a network maintainer known as a collator. The role of the collator node is to maintain a full node of the parachain, retain all necessary information of the parachain, and produce new block candidates to pass to the Relay Chain validators for verification and inclusion in the shared state of Polkadot . The incentivization of a collator node is an implementation detail of the parachain.

Detailed Parachain

It is very elegant in its design and the reason I was drawn to Polkadot. The other parachains, especially Astar, are working with both the EVM and WASM and finding a way to merge and interoperate in the Ethereum realm and its Blockchains.

Polkadot — Key Features

Key Features

Ok mostly the things I know already, but it is good to get it all consolidated in one place.

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