Pattern overlap implies runaway growth in hierarchical tile systems

David Doty, Ho-Lin Chen, Jan Manuch, Arash Rafiey, Ladislav Stacho


We show that in the hierarchical tile assembly model, if there is a producible assembly that overlaps a nontrivial translation of itself consistently (i.e., the pattern of tile types in the overlap region is identical in both translations), then arbitrarily large assemblies are producible. The significance of this result is that tile systems intended to controllably produce finite structures must avoid pattern repetition in their producible assemblies that would lead to such overlap.

This answers an open question of Chen and Doty (SODA 2012), who showed that so-called "partial-order" systems producing a unique finite assembly and avoiding such overlaps must require time linear in the assembly diameter. An application of our main result is that any system producing a unique finite assembly is automatically guaranteed to avoid such overlaps, simplifying the hypothesis of Chen and Doty's main theorem.

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ISSN: 1920-180X