Asynchronous Signal Passing for Tile Self-Assembly: Fuel Efficient Computation and Efficient Assembly of Shapes

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In this paper we demonstrate the power of a model of tile self-assembly based on active glues which can dynamically change state. We formulate the Signal-passing Tile Assembly Model (STAM), based on the model of Padilla et al. [24] to be asynchronous, allowing any action of turning a glue on or off, attaching a new tile, or breaking apart an assembly to happen in any order. Within this highly generalized model we provide three new solutions to tile self-assembly problems that have been addressed within the abstract Tile Assembly Model and its variants, showing that signal passing tiles allow for substantial improvement across multiple complexity metrics. Our first result utilizes a recursive assembly process to achieve tile-type efficient assembly of linear structures, using provably fewer tile types than what is possible in standard tile assembly models. Our second system of signal-passing tiles simulates any Turing machine with high fuel efficiency by using only a constant number of tiles per computation step. Our third system assembles the discrete Sierpinski triangle, demonstrating that this pattern can be strictly self-assembled within the STAM. This result is of particular interest in that it is known that this pattern cannot self-assemble within a number of well studied tile self-assembly models. Notably, all of our constructions are at temperature 1, further demonstrating that signal-passing confers the power to bypass many restrictions found in standard tile assembly models.