Probabilistic Lightning Sub Satoshi Transactions in the Lightning Network

James Bloxham, Andrew Xia, Justine Jang, Gina Yuan at MIT.

Students at MIT have released a paper describing a scheme which can be utilized to make sub-satoshi microtransactions via the Lightning Network.

Lightning Network is a system overlaid on the Bitcoin blockchain which facilitates smaller and quicker transactions, commonly referred to as micropayments. However the size of transactions are limited by the smallest unit of Bitcoin, the Satoshi.

The idea behind probabilistic payments is that transactions have a low probability of going through but a high payload if they do. Instead of Alice paying Bob 1 cent, she pays Bob 1 dollar with probability 1100. In BTC terminology, instead of Alice paying Bob 12 a satoshi (a hard limitation), she pays Bob 1 satoshi with a probability of 12. This is accomplished by sending multiple transactions: 1/n, with n being the odds. By extending the Lightning API the students were able to to probabilistically push an amount of satoshis to another party with defined odds.

This paper was an interesting thought exercise and the code they used in the paper is hosted on Github.

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