Cross-chain payment protocols with success guarantees

Rob van Glabbeek*, Vincent Gramoli, Pierre Tholoniat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we consider the problem of cross-chain payment whereby customers of different escrows—implemented by a bank or a blockchain smart contract—successfully transfer digital assets without trusting each other. Prior to this work, cross-chain payment problems did not require this success, or any form of progress. We introduce a new specification formalism called Asynchronous Networks of Timed Automata to formalise such protocols. We present the first cross-chain payment protocol that ensures termination in a bounded amount of time and works correctly in the presence of clock drift. We then demonstrate that it is impossible to solve this problem without assuming synchrony, in the sense that each message is guaranteed to arrive within a known amount of time. Yet, we solve an eventually terminating weaker variant of this problem, where success is conditional on the patience of the participants, without assuming synchrony, and in the presence of Byzantine failures. We also discuss the relation with the recently defined cross-chain deals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalDistributed Computing
Early online date8 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2023


  • asynchronous communication
  • asynchronous networks of timed automata
  • blockchain
  • clock drift
  • cross-chain payment protocols
  • distributed systems
  • fault tolerance
  • safety and liveness properties


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