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Version: 1.3.0

Embedded Michelson

If you have an existing piece of Michelson code that you want to use as-is, LIGO provides the ability to embed Michelson code. This feature can be useful when you need to have a deep level of control over the generated code, for example for optimisation, or if you need to use a feature from Michelson that is not yet supported by high-level constructions in LIGO.

Embedding Code

The syntax for embedding Michelson is by means of the [%Michelson ...] construction. The ellipsis is meant to denote an annotated string literal containing the Michelson code to be injected in the generated Michelson and the type (as a function) of the Michelson code.

const michelson_add = n =>
(Michelson `{ UNPAIR ; ADD }` as ((n: [nat, nat]) => nat))(n);

Note that the type annotation is required, because the embedded Michelson code is not type checked by LIGO. This assumes that the given type is correct.

In the example above, the notation {| ... |} is used to represent a verbatim string literal, that is, an uninterpreted string, which here contains a piece of Michelson code. The type annotation describes the behaviour of the Michelson code:

  • It starts working on a stack consisting of a tuple of nats: [ nat * nat ].

  • The tuple is destructured using UNPAIR: [ nat ] [ nat ].

  • The two top values of the stack are added using ADD, and stops working on a stack consisting of a single nat: [ nat ].

The compiler will prevent changes to the embedded Michelson code if the function resulting from the embedded code is not applied. For example, let's see what happens when we compile an embedded Michelson expression that pushes some value on the stack, then drops it immediately, and then continues as a regular increment function.

As we can see, the embedded Michelson code was not modified. However, if the resulting function is applied, then the embedded Michelson code could be modified/optimised by the compiler. To exemplify this behaviour, an application can be introduced in the example above by eta-expanding. In this case, the first two instructions will be removed by LIGO because they have no effect on the final result.

Compiling Embedded Code

Contracts with embedded Michelson code are compiled normally like any other contract. We give an example of a contract that uses the type never, a new Michelson type that represents the empty type. You can read more about it here.

We will use the Michelson instruction NEVER to resolve a forbidden branch when matching on the parameter of our contract:

type parameter =
["Increment", int]
| ["Extend", never];
type storage = int;
function main (action: parameter, store: storage) : [list<operation>, storage] {
let storage =
match(action, {
Increment: n => store + n,
Extend: k => (Michelson`{ NEVER }` as ((n: never) => int))(k)
return [list([]), storage];

Assuming we have saved those contents in a file with name never, we can compile it using the following command:

⚠️ Just for reference, there is support now for generating the instruction NEVER directly from LIGO, using Tezos.never.