Understanding Layer 2 Solutions: The Key to Blockchain Scalability

Written by
Shuhaib Shariff
Published on
June 25, 2023

As a crypto investor, you're likely familiar with the exciting potential of blockchain technology. Its ability to provide a decentralized, secure, and transparent platform for transactions has revolutionized industries from finance to supply chain management. However, as the adoption of blockchain technology increases, so do the demands on its infrastructure. This is where Layer 2 solutions come in, offering a promising solution to the scalability issues faced by major blockchain networks such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Let us explore the world of Layer 2 solutions, exploring their purpose, how they work, and their potential impact on the future of blockchain technology.

What is Layer 2?

Layer 2, often referred to as "L2", is a secondary framework or protocol that is built on top of an existing blockchain system, known as Layer 1. The primary goal of these protocols is to address the transaction speed and scaling difficulties currently faced by major cryptocurrency networks.

For instance, Bitcoin and Ethereum, despite their popularity and widespread use, are still not able to process thousands of transactions per second (TPS). This limitation can hinder their long-term growth and wider adoption. Layer 2 solutions aim to overcome these scalability issues, offering users cheaper and faster transactions while maintaining the robust security guarantees of the underlying blockchain.

Why Do We Need Layer 2 Solutions?

The need for Layer 2 solutions arises from the inherent limitations of blockchain technology. Blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum are often described as "Layer 1" chains because they settle every transaction on their network. While this provides a high level of security, it also limits the number of transactions that can be processed per second.

As the number of users and transactions on a blockchain network increases, so does the demand for block space. This can lead to network congestion, resulting in slower transaction times and higher transaction fees. Layer 2 solutions aim to alleviate these issues by increasing the blockchain's capacity to handle a larger volume of transactions more efficiently.

How Do Layer 2 Solutions Work?

Layer 2 solutions work by creating a secondary framework where blockchain transactions and processes can take place independently of the Layer 1 chain. This is often referred to as "off-chain" scaling.

One of the main advantages of using off-chain solutions is that the main chain doesn’t need to go through any structural change because the second layer is added as an extra layer. As such, Layer 2 solutions have the potential to achieve high throughput without sacrificing network security.

In other words, a significant portion of the work that would be performed by the main chain can be moved to the second layer. So while the main chain (Layer 1) provides security, the second layer offers high throughput, being able to perform hundreds, or even thousands, of transactions per second.

Types of Layer 2 Solutions

There are several types of Layer 2 solutions, each with a different approach to improving blockchain scalability. Here are some of the most common types:


Channels offer users a way of making multiple transactions off-chain, while submitting only two transactions to the settlement layer, i.e., Ethereum. This allows for high throughput at a low cost. However, there are limitations. Participants need to be known in advance, and they’re also required to deposit funds into a multisig contract. Examples of channels include Connext and Raiden.


Plasma solutions use Merkle trees to create an additional chain to the main blockchain. This facilitates fast transactions at a lower cost, as the blocks aren’t settled on the main chain, and there’s no need to store data on the ledger. Examples of Plasma solutions include OMG and Polygon.


Sidechains run separately from the main blockchain, and operate independently usingtheir own consensus algorithm. They connect to Ethereum via a two-way bridge. They’re compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine, but they’re also limited: they’re less decentralized than the main network, the consensus algorithm isn’t settled by Layer 1, and sidechain validators could coordinate to act maliciously. Examples of sidechains include xDAI and Skale.


Rollups work by executing transactions on Layer 2, while submitting data to the base chain. This means that they benefit from the security of Ethereum, but can perform transactions outside of Layer 1. There are two types of rollups: ZK (zero knowledge) rollups, which bundle many transfers into one transaction, and optimistic rollups, which operate in parallel to Ethereum. Examples of ZK rollup solutions include Loopring and StarkWare, while optimistic rollups are currently being developed by Optimism.


Validium is not unlike ZK rollup technology in that it uses zero knowledge proofs, but the data is stored off-chain. That means up to 10,000 transactions per second with no withdrawal delays and lower risk of attacks, but it’s not possible to run every kind of smart contract, generating ZK proofs requires high computational power, and finality times can be slower. Examples of Validium solutions include StarkWare and DeversiFi.

The Impact of Layer 2 Solutions on Blockchain Technology

Layer 2 solutions have the potential to significantly impact the future of blockchain technology. By improving scalability and transaction speed, they can facilitate the wider adoption of blockchain technology across various industries.

For instance, in the financial sector, Layer 2 solutions could enable the processing of thousands of transactions per second, making blockchain technology a viable alternative to traditional financial systems. This could revolutionize the way we conduct financial transactions, from everyday purchases to large-scale financial transfers.

Moreover, Layer 2 solutions could also pave the way for more complex applications of blockchain technology. For example, they could enable the development of decentralized applications (dApps) that require high transaction speeds, such as decentralized exchanges or gaming platforms.

The Future of Layer 2 Solutions

As blockchain technology continues to evolve, so too will Layer 2 solutions. Developers are continually working on new and improved Layer 2 protocols to address the ongoing challenges of blockchain scalability.

One promising area of development is the integration of Layer 2 solutions with other emerging technologies. For example, Layer 2 solutions could be combined with sharding, a technique that divides a blockchain into smaller pieces, or "shards", to further improve scalability.

Furthermore, as the adoption of Layer 2 solutions increases, we can expect to see more standardization in the field. This could lead to the development of universal Layer 2 protocols that can be applied across different blockchain platforms, further facilitating the interoperability and scalability of blockchain technology.


As a crypto investor, understanding Layer 2 solutions is crucial to staying ahead in the rapidly evolving world of blockchain technology. By addressing the scalability issues faced by major blockchain networks, Layer 2 solutions offer a promising solution to one of the biggest challenges in the field. As these solutions continue to develop and improve, they will play an increasingly important role in the future of blockchain technology. Whether you're investing in cryptocurrencies or considering the use of blockchain technology in your business, keeping an eye on the development of Layer 2 solutions is a must.

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