Pathways to the other worlds: an overview of blockchain bridges

With the growing popularity of networks such as BSC, Solana, Terra, and Avalanche, many are wondering how to transfer capital between ecosystems quickly and efficiently. The lack of interaction between blockchain networks is one of the major problems in the development of the DeFi sector and the entire blockchain space as a whole. 

In one of our previous articles, we talked about major cross-chain solutions and protocols that are designed to improve the network relationships between blockchains. One such solution is building bridges between crypto worlds to connect apps and users like never before.

Use cases

Bridges play an important role in the development of DeFi and other areas of cryptocurrency. Lack of integration and interoperability makes the blockchain space fragmented and impossible to fully enable financial flows.

Blockchain bridges make it possible to transfer assets, data, and identifiers from one chain to another securely and without compromising network integrity, even as networks have different consensus rules and governance mechanisms. 

Speaking of DeFi, and given that much of the funds are concentrated in Ethereum, the high network fees prevent users from making everyday transactions. The scalability problem leads to the reallocation of funds onto other blockchains or second layer solutions that offer cheaper and faster transactions. Bridges allow for this free flow of capital from one chain to another, making the market more efficient.

As other blockchains emerge and evolve, creating bridges to other networks and linking them bilaterally, is the optimal strategy for attracting user attention and capital from outside of the industry. This approach broadens the scope of user experience. For example, creating a BTC-ETH bridge allows bitcoin holders to take advantage of Ethereum smart contracts without exchanging their assets.

Bitcoin bridges

Bridges and asset transfer solutions are being developed with the Bitcoin blockchain in mind. For example, the Bitcoin-based smart contract developer RSK, which created a Bitcoin-based sidechain, has developed the RSK-Ethereum bridge. This bridge allows the two networks to connect and users to transfer from one network to the other.

It’s worth noting that the main Bitcoin blockchain and RSK’s sidechain are also linked by a bridge. When BTC is transferred to the RSK network, bitcoins are locked by a smart contract in the main network, and the RSK sidechain issues an RBTC token that can be used in the RSK ecosystem. The fusion of the Bitcoin blockchain and its Bitcoin-based sidechain allows the latter to achieve the same level of security, thereby increasing scalability and transaction speed.

 

The BTCRelay bridge by ConsenSys, which links the main cryptocurrency and Ethereum networks, allows the two blockchains to interact with each other. Users can then implement Ethereum smart contracts, pay for interactions in bitcoins, conduct BTC-ETH exchanges, or confirm bitcoin payments on the Ethereum blockchain.

RenBridge direct bridge for transferring assets such as renBTC, renBCH, renLUNA, renFIL is compatible with a large number of networks: Ethereum, BSC, Polygon, Arbitrum, Solana, Fantom, Avalanche.

tBTC, proposed by Cross Chain Group (CCG) and built on Keep Network, offers opportunities to transfer BTC to Ethereum without intermediaries using a decentralized network of signatories. It is worth noting that the bridge launch was supported by such major projects as Balancer, Uniswap, Compound, 1inch and others.

Polkadot developers are also planning to launch a bridge with the Bitcoin network. At the moment, the bridge is being tested in alpha mode. After the bridge is launched, users will be able to create assets secured by BTC on the Polkadot network and then use them on various platforms and services.

Bridges to other networks

There are different types of bridges. For example, bridges that aim to provide access to an asset from a third-party network. Such assets are most often wrapped tokens, which are backed by an underlying asset. These asset transfer solutions are simple to implement but have rather limited functionality. There are also bridges with access to multiple blockchains within one or more ecosystems and one-way or two-way capabilities.

We will review the most popular and common bridges for transferring assets between networks. They often  vary in transfer speed, level of security, and fees. This requires users to do their own research before implementing any of these solutions.

Multi-network bridges

The official Binance bridge allows you to exchange a wide range of assets across multiple networks. Metamask and Binance Chain Wallet are available for connection, and more wallets will support the Wallet Connect function soon.

Terra Bridge connects BSC, Ethereum, Harmony, and Terra networks. Terra ecosystem tokens and any type of mAssets are also available for transfer between the networks as well.

Celer Network’s cBridge allows you to move assets between networks such as Ethereum, BSC, Avalanche, HECO, OkexChain, xDai, Fantom, and such L2 solutions as Arbitrum, Polygon, Optimism.

AllBridge, developed by the APYSwap Foundation, can be used to transfer assets between networks. Tokens from Ethereum, Avalanche, BSC, OkexChain, Polygon, and Solana are available for transfer. In the future, developers plan to make it possible to add your own tokens for translation and switch to a decentralized way of managing the protocol.

AnySwap is a distributed protocol allowing you to exchange assets, where asset transfer between Ethereum, BSC, Fantom, Avalanche, HECO, KCC, and other networks is available. There is also a cross-chain solution Multichain, which supports Ethereum, BSC, Fantom, Fusion, Heco, Polygon and xDAI networks.

Centralized exchanges, such as Gate or FTX, can also be used as bridges.

Dedicated bridges

Rainbow Bridge is another network bridge that is designed to interact with smart contracts and integrate Ethereum and NEAR networks. 

The path to the Avalanche network is established via Avax Bridge, built using ChainBridge technology from ChainSafe. ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens are available for two-way transmission.

The link between Ethereum and Polkadot is being established by Snowfork, which is building a bridge to transmit ETH, ERC-20 tokens, and any data and interact with smart contracts on the Polkadot network.

Also, on September 19, the Wormhole Bridge V.2. was launched between the Ethereum and Solana networks, allowing for the transfer of ERC-20 and SPL tokens. The bridge is operated by decentralized inter-network oracles managed by validators.

Bridges for L2 solutions

Transferring assets from Ethereum to the Polygon network can be done using the following solutions:

  • Polygon’s official PoS bridge (transfer takes about 3 hours)
  • The xPollinate bridge by ConnectX for transferring assets from the Binance Smart Chain and Fantom network
  • Zapper Bridge for one-way transfers on Polygon

Arbitrum Bridge can be used for Ethereum. It is worth noting that when making an asset transfer to the main Ethereum network, you need to wait more than seven days. An alternative solution for faster transfer of funds from Arbitrum is cBridge from Celer Network already mentioned previously, where stablecoins, as well as WETH or CELR, are available for withdrawal.

To move funds from Ethereum to Optimism, you can use Gateway Optimism bridge which supports assets such as ETH, DAI, LINK, SNX, WBTC, USDT, USDC, and UNI.

Finding bridges with DeCommas 

The number of blockchains, sidechains, and L2 solutions is rapidly expanding, and as a result, the number of assets and their distribution paths across network bridges is growing as well. In the flow of changing information, it is quite difficult to track and select the most optimal bridge given the costs, your assets, timeframe, and risk profile.

The DeCommas Gears platform offers a suite of tools for analyzing and tracking blockchain activity. One of the tools available on the platform is Bridges, which helps users select the services and protocols needed to transact with the networks of their choice. DeCommas offers tools to find suitable bridges based on given parameters set by users. In order to find the most optimal bridge solution enter the desired network or token name to get a list of suitable bridge solutions.

Conclusion

The process of bridging between networks is gaining momentum and we can already see more and more bridge solutions and protocols for exchanging value between blockchains arise. With the advent of NFTs, platform developers are thinking about creating bridges between networks to transfer NFT tokens and similar assets. For example, a new Ethereum-Fantom bridge and XP Network NFT bridge, which was launched on the Elrond Devnet network was designed with this in mind.

There is a lot of research being done on building bridges and improving their security and interoperability. Blockchain bridges allow users to move beyond one ecosystem and blockchain protocols to interact with each other, extending the functionality and capabilities they provide. 

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