# Blockchain Data

# Introduction

In this guide, we'll explore how to provide chain data to LDK upon startup and as new blocks are mined. This allows LDK to maintain channel state and monitor for on-chain channel activity.

# Overview

LDK maintains channels with your node's peers during the course of node operation. When a new channel is opened, the ChannelManager will keep track of the channel's state and tell the ChainMonitor that a new channel should be watched. The ChainMonitor does so by maintaining a ChannelMonitor for each channel.

When a new block is mined, it is connected to the chain while other blocks may be disconnected if reorganized out. Transactions are confirmed or unconfirmed during this process. You are required to feed this activity to LDK which will process it by:

  • Updating channel state
  • Signaling back transactions to filter
  • Broadcasting transactions if necessary

We will walk through this process as depicted here:

LDK block processing

# Chain Activity

Initially, our node doesn't have any channels and hence has no data to monitor for on-chain. When a channel is opened with a peer, the ChannelManager creates a ChannelMonitor and passes it to the ChainMonitor to watch.

At this point, you need to feed LDK any chain data of interest so that it can respond accordingly. It supports receiving either full blocks or pre-filtered blocks using the chain::Listen interface. While block data can sourced from anywhere, it is your responsibility to call the block_connected and block_disconnected methods on ChannelManager and ChainMonitor. This allows them to update channel state and respond to on-chain events, respectively.

LDK comes with a lightning-block-sync utility that handles polling a block source for the best chain tip, detecting chain forks, and notifying listeners when blocks are connected and disconnected. It can be configured to:

  • Poll a custom BlockSource
  • Notify ChannelManager and ChainMonitor of block events

It is your choice as to whether you use this utility or your own to feed the required chain data to LDK. If you choose to use it, you will need to implement the BlockSource interface or use one of the samples that it provides.


Currently, lightning-block-sync is only available in Rust.

# Block Source

Implementing the BlockSource interface requires defining methods for fetching headers, blocks, and the best block hash.

    For instance, you may implement this interface by querying Bitcoin Core's JSON RPC interface, which happens to be a sample implementation provided by lightning-block-sync.

    Let's walk through the use case where LDK receives full blocks.

    # Full Blocks

    If your Lightning node is backed by a Bitcoin full node, the operation is straight forward: call the appropriate methods on ChannelManager and ChainMonitor as blocks are connected and disconnected. LDK will handle the rest!

    So what happens? The ChannelManager examines the blocks transactions and updates the internal channel state as needed. The ChainMonitor will detect any spends of the channel funding transaction or any pertinent transaction outputs, tracking them as necessary.

    If necessary, LDK will broadcast a transaction on your behalf. More on that later. For now, let's look at the more interesting case of pre-filtered blocks.

    # Pre-filtered Blocks

    For environments that are resource constrained, receiving and processing all transaction data may not be feasible. LDK handles this case by signaling back which transactions and outputs it is interested in. This information can then be used to filter blocks prior to sending them to your node.

    For example, if your block source is an Electrum client, you can pass along this information to it. Or if you are making use of a BIP 157 client, you can check if a block contains relevant transactions before fetching it.

    So how does this work in practice? ChainMonitor is parameterized by an optional type that implements chain::Filter:

      When this is provided, ChainMonitor will call back to the filter as channels are opened and blocks connected. This gives the opportunity for the source to pre-filter blocks as desired.

      Regardless, when a block is connected, its header must be processed by LDK.

      # Confirmed Transactions

      Up until this point, we've explored how to notify LDK of chain activity using blocks. But what if you're sourcing chain activity from a place that doesn't provide a block-centric interface, like Electrum?

      LDK has a chain::Confirm interface to support this use case, analogous to the block-oriented chain::Listen interface which we've been using up until now. With this alternative approach, you still need to give LDK block headers but only for blocks containing transactions of interest. These are identified by chain::Filter as before. You also need to notify LDK of any transactions with insufficient confirmation that have been reorganized out of the chain. Use the transactions_confirmed and transaction_unconfirmed methods, respectively.

      Additionally, you must notify LDK whenever a new chain tip is available using the best_block_updated method. See the documentation for a full picture of how this interface is intended to be used.


      Be advised that chain::Confirm is a less mature interface than chain::Listen. As such, there is not yet a utility like lightning-block-sync to use for interacting with clients like Electrum.

      # Transaction Broadcast

      Inevitably, LDK will need to broadcast transactions on your behalf. As you notify it of blocks, it will determine if it should broadcast a transaction and do so using an implementation of BroadcasterInterface that you have provided.

      And as those transactions or those from your peers are confirmed on-chain, they will be likewise processed when notified of a connected block. Thus, continuing the cycle.

      Last Updated: 10/21/2021, 6:10:33 PM