Enhanced Distributed Ledger Technology

Project Overview

The blockchain data structure and proof-of-work protocol were designed to solve the problem of double spending in cryptocurrencies.  But conventional blockchains are hard to use in many distributed system applications.  Although blockchain has found many applications outside of cryptocurrency, many of its features are not well suited to common data management applications.  The added trust of distributed ledgers is a valuable feature, providing greatly simplified auditability and verification of actions among multiple parties in applications such as supply chain and others, but there are tradeoffs.

Blockchain's hash-based integrity verification provides trust, at the cost of an inability to delete or update records, leading to design complications that would not arise with conventional database management systems.  Similarly, the sequencing guarantees of blockchain consensus protocols are needed for cryptocurrency in the absence of a universal timestamp.  Moreover, actions within the distributed ledger must be connected with other actions in the real world, through accurate timestamps.  We are developing a new architecture that provides the trust features of blockchains, with characteristics that allow for simpler designs and greater practicality in conventional data management problems.  This alternative can lead to new approaches to incorporating trust into distributed systems applications. 

Do you need a blockchain?  NIST flowchart


Key Capabilities

  • Verified time - a high-resolution time protocol that allows guaranteed time stamps to be used in place of consensus algorithms to ensure record ordering, making possible much higher throughput and higher precision timestamps that possible with conventional blockchain. 
  • Modifiable blocks -a data block matrix structure that provides hash-based integrity while allowing controlled deletion or modification of data.  This capability can support privacy requirements that are difficult or impossible to meet with conventional DLT.



Open source code  


Jeff Voas, NIST
Rick Kuhn, NIST
Dylan Yaga, NIST
Temur Saidkhodjaev, Univ of Maryland

Additional resources



Jeff Voas

Rick Kuhn

Dylan Yaga

Created September 24, 2019, Updated October 19, 2020