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Module Specifications

Archived Version 2022 - 2023

Module Title
Module Code

Online Module Resources

NFQ level 9 Credit Rating 7.5
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None

This module will give students a knowledge of many of the technologies which underpin distributed ledger implementations and smart contract architectures, and how they scale. Various implementation approaches and acceleration techniques will be explored, and their energy cost and throughput will be evaluated as a function of ledger size and transaction rate. The resources needed to compromise the ledger or subvert the contract will also be explored for various existing and proposed distributed ledger, smart contract and blockchain approaches.

Learning Outcomes

1. Explain the operation of peer to peer networks and the associated resource discovery algorithms
2. Critically evaluate the scaling properties of such networks.
3. Compare various distributed trust and consensus algorithms and their scaling properties from a cost and vulnerability perspective.
4. Critically evaluate methods for achieving consensus (e.g., blockchain mining), identifying the benefits of various architectures and acceleration techniques, and the energy cost of each method.
5. Critically evaluate methods of establishing trust including Proofs such as Proof of Stake, and to select among the alternatives based on considerations of scale and energy cost.
6. Identify the elements in any smart contract architecture which require stakeholder trust, and critically evaluate how their vulnerability scales with network size.
7. Analyse the transaction rates achievable in various smart contract and cryptocurrency architectures.

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture36No Description
Assignment Completion30No Description
Independent Study122No Description
Total Workload: 188

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Peer to peer networks
An assessment of architectures, protocols and algorithms to support distributed computing and data processing where all parties are peers.

Distributed trust from a scalability perspective
A review of a number of algorithms used or proposed for blockchain, smart contract and related applications requiring distributed trust will be undertaken. For each algorithm, the impact of increasing the number of participants on the aggregate computational load and the achievable transaction rate will be assessed.

Proof of Stake and alternatives
Numerical evaluation of the computational and energy cost of implementing Proof of Work, using a range of acceleration techniques. Investigation of alternatives to Proof of Work using the same criteria, so that the appropriate algorithm for given blockchain or other distributed trust applications can be selected.

Distributed Trust and Smart Contracts
Explore the robustness of various architectures for implementing distributed trust and smart contracts, considering how increased network size affects the architecture's vulnerability to malicious actors. The tradeoffs between computational load and vulnerability will be determined for all approaches.

Use case exploration
Combine the elements above to identify a suitable architecture and set of algorithms for a specific use case.

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment% Examination Weight%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
Reassessment Requirement
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
Indicative Reading List

  • Imran Bashir: 0, Mastering Blockchain: Distributed ledger technology, decentralization, and smart contracts explained, 2nd, Packt, 1788839048
  • Sachin Shetty, Charles A. Kamhoua, Laurent Njilla (Editors): 2019, Blockchain for Distributed Systems Security, 1st ed., Wiley, 1119519608
  • Roger Wattenhofer: 0, Distributed Ledger Technology: The Science of the Blockchain, Amazon Kindle,
Other Resources

Programme or List of Programmes