Automated Market Makers (AMMs) in DeFi Explained


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Automated Market Makers (AMMs) are pioneering DeFi protocols, redefining cryptocurrency trading. They function as self-sustaining trading systems, eliminating centralized exchanges. Instead of direct buyer-seller interactions, AMMs rely on liquidity pools for asset trading, removing intermediaries. This shift democratizes liquidity access globally, erasing traditional finance hurdles. AMMs align perfectly with crypto’s decentralized ethos, offering trustless exchanges. This Cryptopolitan guide dives into AMMs, explaining their mechanics, benefits, and DeFi significance. It also covers incentive structures for liquidity providers, methods to minimize impermanent loss, and profiles of key DeFi AMMs.

Understanding Traditional Market Makers vs. AMMs

In the world of finance, traditional market makers play a pivotal role on centralized exchanges. These market makers are entities or individuals responsible for facilitating the smooth functioning of trading markets. Their primary objective is to ensure that buyers and sellers can seamlessly execute their orders by maintaining a robust order book.

Traditional market makers act as intermediaries, standing ready to buy or sell assets at specified prices. When Trader A seeks to purchase a cryptocurrency at a specific price, the market maker steps in to provide liquidity by selling the cryptocurrency at that price. Conversely, when Trader B wishes to sell the same cryptocurrency, the market maker buys it from them, effectively matching the buy and sell orders. In this process, the market maker ensures that trading orders are executed swiftly, reducing the likelihood of price slippage.

Introduction to Liquidity Pools and Their Role in AMMs

Contrastingly, the advent of Automated Market Makers (AMMs) revolutionized the traditional market maker model. AMMs bring decentralization and innovation to the forefront by replacing order books with liquidity pools. These liquidity pools serve as shared reservoirs of tokens, where users can deposit their assets, thus providing liquidity to the ecosystem.

Rather than relying on professional market makers, AMMs enable anyone to become a liquidity provider. Users contribute a predetermined ratio of two or more tokens to these liquidity pools. The assets locked in these pools become the cornerstone for trading within the AMM protocol.

The Transition from Order Books to Liquidity Pools

The transition from order books to liquidity pools marks a fundamental shift in the dynamics of cryptocurrency trading. Traditional exchanges rely on market makers who supply liquidity from their own holdings or represent institutions. In contrast, AMMs pool liquidity from users across the globe, creating a decentralized and inclusive environment.

Within these liquidity pools, AMMs employ mathematical formulas to determine asset prices. The mathematical relationship between the assets in the pool ensures that the pool remains balanced and that the prices of the tokens within it are accurately reflected. This unique approach eliminates the need for centralized intermediaries, enhancing user autonomy and control.

How AMMs Work

Automated Market Makers (AMMs) rely on a unique system of liquidity pools to facilitate decentralized trading. These liquidity pools are the lifeblood of AMMs, and they function through the active participation of liquidity providers.

Role of Liquidity Providers

Liquidity providers, often referred to as LPs, are instrumental in the functioning of AMMs. These individuals or entities contribute their cryptocurrency holdings to liquidity pools, thereby enabling other users to trade within the AMM ecosystem. LPs play a crucial role in ensuring that there are sufficient assets available for trading, enhancing liquidity, and reducing the chances of price slippage.

Balanced Pools and Dual-Sided Deposits

The concept of balanced pools is fundamental to AMMs. When liquidity providers deposit their assets into a liquidity pool, they do so in pairs, maintaining a specific ratio between the two tokens. This balanced approach ensures that the pool remains stable and that the mathematical formulas governing the AMM can function effectively.

Mathematical Formulas for Asset Pricing

These formulas act as self-correcting mechanisms, preventing significant price disparities within the liquidity pools. This feature helps maintain the accuracy of asset prices and fosters a fair trading environment.

Understanding the mathematical underpinnings of AMMs is pivotal in grasping their functionality and the mechanisms that drive liquidity provision and trading.

Common Formulas: Uniswap’s x*y=k and Variations

AMMs employ mathematical formulas to determine the prices of assets within liquidity pools. Uniswap, one of the pioneering AMMs, introduced a widely-used formula known as x*y=k. 

In this equation, “x” represents the value of one asset, “y” denotes the value of another asset, and “k” is a constant. This mathematical relationship is the cornerstone of Uniswap’s pricing mechanism.

Ensuring Price Equilibrium in Liquidity Pools

The mathematical formulas used in AMMs, including variations of the Uniswap model, serve a critical purpose. They ensure that the prices of tokens within liquidity pools remain in equilibrium with the broader market. 

When traders execute transactions within an AMM, such as purchasing an asset, the formula adjusts the prices within the pool to reflect the transaction’s impact.

Incentives for Liquidity Providers

AMMs offer attractive incentives to liquidity providers (LPs), making it an appealing choice for those seeking to participate in DeFi ecosystems.

Earning Fees Proportional to Liquidity Provided

LPs are rewarded with transaction fees that are proportional to the amount of liquidity they contribute to the pool. Essentially, the more assets a liquidity provider locks into a liquidity pool, the larger their share of the transaction fees. This fee structure aligns with LPs’ interests, as it encourages them to provide more liquidity to the ecosystem, ultimately enhancing the trading experience for all users.

Distribution of Fees among Liquidity Providers

The fees collected within an AMM are typically distributed among the LPs based on their proportionate contribution to the liquidity pool. For instance, if an LP provides 10% of the total liquidity in a pool, they will receive 10% of the transaction fees generated by that pool. This distribution mechanism ensures that LPs are fairly compensated for their participation.

Yield Farming Opportunities

Maximizing Earnings through Staking LP Tokens

Beyond transaction fees, liquidity providers can leverage yield farming opportunities within AMMs to further boost their earnings. Upon depositing assets into a liquidity pool, LPs receive LP tokens representing their share of the pool. These LP tokens can often be staked in other DeFi protocols, allowing LPs to earn additional rewards or interest.

By participating in yield farming, LPs can compound their earnings, making their involvement in liquidity provision even more lucrative. This strategy capitalizes on the composability of DeFi protocols, where LP tokens can be seamlessly integrated into various yield-generating platforms.

Governance Tokens and Their Role in AMMs

Some AMMs issue governance tokens to liquidity providers and users of the platform. Governance tokens grant holders the right to participate in decision-making processes related to the protocol’s development and governance. LPs can actively influence the direction of the AMM by exercising their voting rights on proposals, upgrades, and changes to the platform.

These governance tokens not only empower LPs but also add an extra layer of engagement and alignment of interests within the AMM ecosystem. Liquidity providers, by holding governance tokens, become stakeholders with a say in shaping the platform’s future.

Managing Impermanent Loss

Impermanent loss is a critical concept that liquidity providers (LPs) in Automated Market Makers (AMMs) must understand. It refers to a temporary loss of funds that can occur when providing liquidity to a liquidity pool within an AMM. This loss arises due to the price volatility of the assets in the pool.

Impermanent loss occurs when the price ratio of the pooled assets deviates significantly from the price at which the LP initially deposited their funds. This deviation is termed “impermanent” because it can potentially revert if the price ratio returns to its original state. However, it becomes a permanent loss when LPs withdraw their funds during a period of unfavorable asset price fluctuation.

How to Deal with Impermanent Loss as a Liquidity Provider

Liquidity providers employ various strategies to mitigate and manage impermanent loss. One approach is to carefully select the assets and liquidity pools they provide. Assets with lower volatility are less likely to experience significant price fluctuations, reducing the risk of impermanent loss. Additionally, LPs may favor pools that offer higher trading fees, which can help compensate for potential losses.

Another strategy is to actively monitor the liquidity pool’s performance and the price movements of the pooled assets. If LPs observe a significant deviation in the asset prices, they may choose to withdraw their funds temporarily and re-enter the pool later when the price ratio is more favorable.

Furthermore, some DeFi platforms offer impermanent loss insurance products that LPs can purchase to protect themselves against potential losses. These insurance products provide compensation in the event of impermanent loss, reducing the risk for liquidity providers.

Balancing Earnings from Fees and Potential Losses

Managing impermanent loss requires liquidity providers to strike a delicate balance between earning transaction fees and minimizing potential losses. While providing liquidity can generate fees, LPs must consider the impact of impermanent loss on their overall returns.

LPs should assess the risk-reward profile of each liquidity pool they participate in, taking into account factors such as asset volatility, trading volume, and fee structure. By diversifying their liquidity provision across different pools and assets, LPs can spread their risk and potentially offset losses in one pool with gains in another.

Popular AMMs in DeFi

Uniswap: The Pioneering AMM

Uniswap stands as one of the pioneering and most influential AMMs in the DeFi landscape. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Uniswap allows users to create liquidity pools for a wide range of ERC-20 token pairs. 

One of its defining features is the 50/50 liquidity pool ratio, where assets are pooled in equal value. Uniswap’s formula, known as x*y=k, maintains price equilibrium within liquidity pools. It has contributed significantly to the growth of DeFi by providing decentralized and permissionless trading for a multitude of tokens.

Pancakeswap: Binance Smart Chain’s Favorite AMM

Pancakeswap emerged as a prominent AMM on the Binance Smart Chain (BSC), offering a similar experience to Uniswap but with lower transaction fees due to BSC’s blockchain design. Pancakeswap has gained popularity for its user-friendly interface and yield farming opportunities, attracting users seeking cost-effective DeFi solutions.

Curve: Specializing in Stablecoin Pairs

Curve is tailored for stablecoin trading, making it a vital AMM in the DeFi ecosystem. Its primary focus is on minimizing slippage and maximizing efficiency when swapping stablecoins. Curve’s AMM model is particularly appealing to users looking to exchange stable assets with minimal price impact, making it a cornerstone of decentralized lending and borrowing platforms.

Balancer: Customizable Liquidity Pools

Balancer takes a unique approach to AMMs by allowing users to create customizable liquidity pools consisting of up to eight different assets in various ratios. This flexibility has made Balancer a preferred choice for those seeking diversified exposure to different tokens within a single pool. It offers users the ability to tailor their risk and reward profiles, making it a versatile AMM within the DeFi space.


AMMs have emerged as pivotal tools in the realm of DeFi. They have revolutionized cryptocurrency trading by providing liquidity, eliminating intermediaries, and offering accessibility to users globally. Leading platforms like Uniswap, Pancakeswap, Curve, and Balancer showcase the innovation and impact of AMMs. As DeFi continues to mature, AMMs are poised to play a central role, expanding support for assets, integrating with other DeFi protocols, and driving decentralization and innovation. 


What is an AMM?

An AMM, or Automated Market Maker, is a decentralized exchange protocol that uses liquidity pools instead of traditional order books for trading digital assets.

How do liquidity providers earn in AMMs?

Liquidity providers earn fees proportional to their share of the liquidity pool and can also benefit from yield farming opportunities.

What is impermanent loss in AMMs?

Impermanent loss occurs when the price ratio of pooled assets fluctuates, leading to potential losses for liquidity providers.

Which are some popular AMMs in DeFi?

Notable AMMs include Uniswap, Pancakeswap, Curve, and Balancer, each with unique features and use cases.

What is the future of AMMs in cryptocurrency?

AMMs are expected to continue their role in DeFi, expanding support for new assets, integrating with other protocols, and driving innovation and decentralization in the crypto space.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Charles Thuo

Charles writes on a variety of crypto and blockchain-related issues. A mechatronics engineer by profession and a crypto enthusiast, Charles has been writing about blockchain and cryptocurrency since 2014. He believes that with current and future trends, blockchain is poised to make a big revolution in the coming decades.

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