Polkadot is a sharded blockchain that aims to connect multiple different blockchains together. The idea is that each shard has its custom state transition function. In Polkadot, a shard is called a Parachain. Having different shards with varying state transition functions offers to build blockchains with various cases in mind.

Each blockchain has to make trade-offs in terms of features it wishes to include. Great examples are Bitcoin which focusses on the core aspect of asset transfers with limited scripting capabilities. On the other end of the spectrum is Ethereum that features a (resource-limited) Turing complete execution environment. With Polkadot, the idea is to allow transfers between these different blockchains using a concept called Bridges.


Polkadot is built using the Substrate framework. Substrate is a blockchain framework that allows to create custom blockchains. We refer the reader to the detailed introduction on the Substrate website.

Substrate Specifics

While this specification does not intend to give a general introduction to either Polkadot or Substrate, we want to highlight several features that are relevant to the implementation.

  • Account-based model: Substrate uses an account-based model to store user’s and their balances through the Balances or Generic Asset modules.

  • DOT to Parachain: Currently, there exists no pre-defined module to maintain DOT, Polkadot’s native currency, on Substrate. This will be added in the future. For now, we assume such a module exists and model its functionality via the Generic Assets module.

  • Restricting function calls: Functions declared in Substrate can be called by any external party. To restrict calls to specific modules, each module can have an account (AccountId in Substrate) assigned. Restricting a function call can then be enforced by limiting calls from pre-defined accounts (i.e. caller Origin must be equal to the modules AccountId).

  • Failure handling: Substrate has no implicit failure handling. Errors within a function or errors raised in other function calls must be handled explicitly in the function implementation. Best practice is to (1) verify that the function conditions are met, (2) update the state, and (3) emit events and return. Note: It is now possible to add a transactional attribute to function that ensure that state is only updated if the function or any of its called functions are not resulting in an error. This prevents partial state update and must be used on all external functions.

  • Concurrency: Substrate does not support concurrent state transitions at the moment.

  • Generic Rust crates: Substrate does not include the Rust standard library due to non-deterministic behavior. However, crates can still be used and custom made if they do not depend on the Rust standard library.