Over the past few years zero-knowledge cryptography has emerged from academia into the business world as a solution that could address the pressing issues of data privacy and scalability limits. 


Led by Prof. Allen Au from the Department of Computing and Research Assistant Professor Dr Xingye Lu, the PolyU research team have won the ZPRIZE in the Plonk-DIZK GPU Acceleration prize category for innovative solutions in empowering zero-knowledge cryptography and was awarded a cash prize of US$550,000. 


Zero-knowledge cryptography, also known as zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs), allows a “prover” to convince a person of the validity of a computation without leaking any information; it is hence referred to as zero-knowledge cryptography. It is seen as a breakthrough technology impacting Web3, a decentralised online ecosystem based on blockchain, because it enables data privacy protection, efficiency improvement and scalability of transparent systems such as blockchain.


Zero-knowledge cryptography is important to foster trust and promote widespread adoption of decentralised applications, which in turn is crucial for the growth of Web3. It also facilitates the development of innovative solutions for privacy-preserving data sharing and collaborative computation. A variety of industries including financial services, healthcare and supply chain management would benefit from the application of this technology. 


A major challenge for real-world adoption of ZKPs, particularly for applications at scale, is the high computation cost. In addressing this issue, the PolyU team focused on enhancing the efficiency and scalability of Plonk, a popular ZKP system. The team delivered this achievement by leveraging GPU acceleration to achieve computation speedup and distributing the workload evenly across multiple servers to improve scalability. 


Prof. Au said that it is crucial because generating those proofs can be computationally intensive, and so a faster and more efficient method could enable the use of zero-knowledge cryptographic in a wider range of applications. 


Prof. Christopher Chao, PolyU Vice President (Research and Innovation), said the award showcased PolyU’s unwavering commitment to advancing blockchain technology and revolutionizing Web3 through innovative research and transformative solutions.