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Synthetic Asset Model

How THORChain enables synthetic assets with no IL and with single asset exposure.
THORChain synthetic assets are primitives for both higher-order financial features, as well as fully-secured, fully-backed synthetic assets that can be sent anywhere in the Cosmos IBC ecosystem and they will always retain the guarantee they can be redeemed for the underlying.

Synthetic Assets

THORChain synthetics are unique in that they are 50% backed by their own asset, with the other 50% backing being provided by RUNE. This is achieved by using pool ownership to collateralise the synth, which ensures always-on liquidity and pricing.
​Virtual Depths were initially applied to Synth Swaps (Minting and Redeeming). VirtualMultSynths multiplies the pool depth (R and A) before the swap is calculated. This was intended to to implement less slip and thus users paying less fees, but was disabled (VirtualMultSynths set to 1) after it was discovered that this would allow front-running.

Minting

Synthetic Assets are created by adding Rune to a pool (or swapping from an asset into RUNE, then adding that) for a synthetic asset of that pool. This is known as Minting.
synthAmount=(r∗R∗A)/(r+R)2synthAmount = (r * R * A)/(r + R)^2
  • r = rune deposited
  • R = Rune Depth (before)
  • A = Asset Depth (before)
The total Synth Supply is updated;
synthSupply+=synthAmountsynthSupply += synthAmount

Synth Units

SynthUnits represent the RUNE collateral value that needs to be kept in the pool. They are computationally derived at any point, this ensures there is only enough at any time to represent the outstanding supply.
The ratio of Synth Units to Liquidity Pool units should be the same as the ratio of synth assets to the total value of the pool without the synth assets (since LP units are all pool units without the synth units).
  • S = Synth Supply
  • A = Asset Depth
  • L = Liquidity Units
  • U = Synth Units
UL=S(2A−S)\frac{U}{L} = \frac{S}{(2A-S)}
U=L∗S(2A−S)U = L * \frac{S}{(2A-S)}
SynthUnits are issued to cover the new liquidity minted, but held by the pool (not owned by anyone). PoolUnits are therefore the sum of liquidityUnits + synthUnits.
Synthetic Assets Minting is capped to 33% of the assets in the pool or about 16.5% of the pool depth. Minting assets increases the total RUNE pooled amount, which cannot be greater than the total bonded.

Redeeming

Synthetic Assets are burned by swapping the Synth for Rune. This is known as Burning or Redeeming. A Synthetic Asset can be redeemed to Rune at any time (or swapped to Rune then to an asset).
Synth Assets hold the value to normal assets and can be redeemed 1:1. Thus swapping 1 BTC for Rune then minting Synthetic BTC will give 1 Synthetic BTC. This can later be redeemed to Rune and swapped for 1 BTC, excluding fees.
runeAmount=(s∗A∗R)/(s+A)2runeAmount = (s * A * R)/(s + A)^2
  • s = Synths to Redeem
  • R = Rune Depth (before)
  • A = Asset Depth (before)
Pool Units, Synth Supply and Rune Pool Depth are correspondingly decremented.

Swapping

Synth Swaps can be done as follows:
  • Layer 1 to Synth: L1 in, Rune moved over to the pool, synth MINTED
  • Synth to Layer 1: Synth REDEEMED, RUNE moved to next pool, Layer 1 swapped out
  • Synth to Synth: Synth REDEEMED, RUNE moved over to the pool, synth MINTED
To specify the destination asset is synth, simply provide a THOR address. If it is Layer 1, then provide a layer 1 address, e.g. a BTC address.

Economic Reasoning

Synth holders do not experience any gain or any loss caused by price changes when minting / redeeming a synth. They do, however, pay a slip-based fee on entry or exit and tx fees.
The dynamic synth unit accounting is to ensure that gain or loss caused by price divergence in the synths is quickly realised to LPs. As Liquidity Providers have Impermanent Loss Protection, as long as they stay for longer than 100 days, the Protocol Reserve is taking on the price risk.
Due to the collateralisation method, THORChain Synthetic Assets are impervious to impermanent loss and offer single asset exposure.

Synth Minting Cap

Due to synths, Liquidity Providers are taking a leveraged position on the RUNE asset today. This can help them earn more rewards if RUNE outperforms the asset, but can also go the other way. The higher the percentage of synths that exist on the network relative to pool depth, the higher the leveraged position Liquidity Providers are taking. Higher than 50% is unhealthy for the network overall.
Due to this, the minting of synths is capped to an upper limit of the total pool depth to protect Liquidity Providers and the network. The Mimir setting MaxSynthPerAssetDepth setting controls the cap which is the asset depth percentage.

Protocol Owned Liquidity (POL)

With the addition of yield-bearing synths, there can be a high demand for minting synths that exceed the cap with normal liquidity. See the original PR.
POL has been introduced to deal with a high demand for minting synths while maintaining a safe synth minting limit by using the RUNE within the Reserve.
The network can monitor the synth utilisation on a per pool basis, and add liquidity (asymmetrically addition of RUNE) if utilisation is greater than cap - 5% (if economic security allows). If synth utilisation is under this figure, then the reserve would remove liquidity (if the PoL has an LP position in this pool).
  • cap = e.g. 1500 (in basis points)
  • range = 500 (in basis points)
  • PA = pool asset depth
  • S = synth supply
utilisation=S/PA∗10000utilisation = S / PA * 10000
By having the reserve add rune into the pool, it de-risks LPs from over RUNE leverage, as the reserve takes on some of that risk. The Reserve is long on its own (and only) asset. This, in turn, creates synth space in the pool, more synth minting and more single-sided asset deposits in the form of synths to enter.

Staged Pools

If an active pool that minted synths becomes staged, then swaps are disabled. However, synth holders can always redeem for RUNE, or the underlying asset, by specifying that on the way out.

Alternate Synth Derivation