Explanation of precompiled contracts for elliptic curve operations essential for zkSNARK verification.

Overview of Precompiled Contracts in Ethereum

In Ethereum, precompiled contracts offer advanced functionalities not readily available in the standard set of opcodes. These contracts simplify and optimize resource-intensive operations, such as those involving elliptic curves, which are crucial for zkSNARK verification.

Role of Precompiled Contracts

Precompiled contracts are embedded within the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) at predetermined addresses. They facilitate operations like elliptic curve point addition, scalar multiplication, and pairing—each essential for cryptographic processes in blockchain applications.

Understanding Elliptic Curve Operations

Elliptic curve operations are fundamental to blockchain cryptography, providing the security necessary for transactions and smart contracts. These operations include:

  • Elliptic Curve Point Addition: Combines two points on a curve to produce a third point.
  • Elliptic Curve Point Scalar Multiplication: Multiplies a point on a curve by a scalar, producing another point.
  • Elliptic Curve Pairing: A complex operation used in more advanced cryptographic constructs, such as zkSNARKs.

The precompiled contracts designated for these tasks are essential for efficient and secure cryptographic verification.

How Precompiled Contracts Work

These contracts are hardcoded into the EVM and can be accessed via fixed addresses starting from 1. Each contract comes with a set gas cost for execution, excluding the gas required for calling the contract and managing data in memory. For instance, in the Go-Ethereum implementation, the execution logic and gas calculations are defined within the Go programming language, following specifications like EIP-196.

Evolving with Ethereum

The Ethereum network occasionally introduces new precompiled contracts through network upgrades or hard forks. These additions ensure that Ethereum can handle new cryptographic challenges and efficiency demands as they arise.

Precompiled contracts thus play a crucial role in maintaining Ethereum's cryptographic integrity and performance, especially in areas requiring intense computational resources, like those needed for zkSNARK verification.

Field Arithmetic

The BN254 (also known as alt-BN128) is an elliptic curve defined by the equation over the finite field , being 08583. The modulus is less than 256 bits, which is why every element in the field is represented as a uint256.

The arithmetic is carried out with the field elements encoded in the Montgomery form. This is done not only because operating in the Montgomery form speeds up the computation but also because the native modular multiplication, which is carried out by Yul's mulmod opcode, is very inefficient.

Instructions set on ZKsync and EVM are different, so the performance of the same Yul/Solidity code can be efficient on EVM, but not on zkEVM and opposite.

One such very inefficient command is mulmod. On EVM there is a native opcode that makes modulo multiplication and it costs only 8 gas, which compared to the other opcodes costs is only 2-3 times more expensive. On zkEVM we don’t have native mulmod opcode, instead, the compiler does full-with multiplication (e.g. it multiplies two uint256s and gets as a result an uint512). Then the compiler performs long division for reduction (but only the remainder is kept), in the generic form it is an expensive operation and costs many opcode executions, which can’t be compared to the cost of one opcode execution. The worst thing is that mulmod is used a lot for the modulo inversion, so optimizing this one opcode gives a huge benefit to the precompiles.


As said before, multiplication was carried out by implementing the Montgomery reduction, which works with general moduli and provides a significant speedup compared to the naïve approach.

The squaring operation is obtained by multiplying a number by itself. However, this operation can have an additional speedup by implementing the SOS Montgomery squaring.


Inversion was performed using the extended binary Euclidean algorithm (also known as extended binary greatest common divisor). This algorithm is a modification of Algorithm 3 MontInvbEEA from Montgomery inversion.


The exponentiation was carried out using the square and multiply algorithm, which is a standard technique for this operation.

Montgomery Form

Let’s take a number R, such that gcd(N, R) == 1 and R is a number by which we can efficiently divide and take module over it (for example power of two or better machine word, aka 2^256). Then transform every number to the form of x * R mod N / y * R mod N and then we get efficient modulo addition and multiplication. The only thing is that before working with numbers we need to transform them to the form from x mod N to the x * R mod N and after performing operations transform the form back.

For the latter, we will assume that N is the module that we use in computations, and R is , since we can efficiently divide and take module over this number and it practically satisfies the property of gcd(N, R) == 1.

Montgomery Reduction Algorithm (REDC)


/// @notice Implementation of the Montgomery reduction algorithm (a.k.a. REDC).
/// @dev See <>
/// @param lowestHalfOfT The lowest half of the value T.
/// @param higherHalfOfT The higher half of the value T.
/// @return S The result of the Montgomery reduction.
function REDC(lowestHalfOfT, higherHalfOfT) -> S {
    let q := mul(lowestHalfOfT, N_PRIME())
    let aHi := add(higherHalfOfT, getHighestHalfOfMultiplication(q, P()))
    let aLo, overflowed := overflowingAdd(lowestHalfOfT, mul(q, P()))
    if overflowed {
        aHi := add(aHi, 1)
    S := aHi
    if iszero(lt(aHi, P())) {
        S := sub(aHi, P())

By choosing we avoided 2 modulo operations and one division from the original algorithm. This is because in Yul, native numbers are uint256 and the modulo operation is native, but for the division, as we work with a 512-bit number split into two parts (high and low part) dividing by means shifting 256 bits to the right or what is the same, discarding the low part.

Montgomery Addition/Subtraction

Addition and subtraction in Montgomery form are the same as ordinary modular addition and subtraction because of the distributive law

/// @notice Computes the Montgomery addition.
/// @dev See <> for further details on the Montgomery multiplication.
/// @param augend The augend in Montgomery form.
/// @param addend The addend in Montgomery form.
/// @return ret The result of the Montgomery addition.
function montgomeryAdd(augend, addend) -> ret {
    ret := add(augend, addend)
    if iszero(lt(ret, P())) {
        ret := sub(ret, P())

/// @notice Computes the Montgomery subtraction.
/// @dev See <> for further details on the Montgomery multiplication.
/// @param minuend The minuend in Montgomery form.
/// @param subtrahend The subtrahend in Montgomery form.
/// @return ret The result of the Montgomery addition.
function montgomerySub(minuend, subtrahend) -> ret {
    ret := montgomeryAdd(minuend, sub(P(), subtrahend))

We do not use addmod. That's because in most cases the sum does not exceed the modulus.

Montgomery Multiplication

The product of and is .

/// @notice Computes the Montgomery multiplication using the Montgomery reduction algorithm (REDC).
/// @dev See <> for further details on the Montgomery multiplication.
/// @param multiplicand The multiplicand in Montgomery form.
/// @param multiplier The multiplier in Montgomery form.
/// @return ret The result of the Montgomery multiplication.
function montgomeryMul(multiplicand, multiplier) -> ret {
    let hi := getHighestHalfOfMultiplication(multiplicand, multiplier)
    let lo := mul(multiplicand, multiplier)
    ret := REDC(lo, hi)

Montgomery Inversion

/// @notice Computes the Montgomery modular inverse skipping the Montgomery reduction step.
/// @dev The Montgomery reduction step is skipped because a modification in the binary extended Euclidean algorithm is used to compute the modular inverse.
/// @dev See the function `binaryExtendedEuclideanAlgorithm` for further details.
/// @param a The field element in Montgomery form to compute the modular inverse of.
/// @return invmod The result of the Montgomery modular inverse (in Montgomery form).
function montgomeryModularInverse(a) -> invmod {
    invmod := binaryExtendedEuclideanAlgorithm(a)

As said before, we use a modified version of the bEE algorithm that lets us “skip” the Montgomery reduction step.

The regular algorithm would be which involves a regular inversion plus a multiplication by a value that can be precomputed.

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