Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Computer Science & Computer Engineering


Matthew J. Patitz

Committee Member

Jin-Woo Kim

Second Committee Member

Gordon Beavers

Third Committee Member

Wing-Ning Li


Intrinsic university, Self-assembly, Tile assembly, Turing complete


Winfree introduced a model of self-assembling systems called the abstract Tile Assembly Model (aTAM) where square tiles with glues on their edges attach spontaneously via matching glues to form complex structures. A generalization of the aTAM called the 2HAM (two-handed aTAM) not only allows for single tiles to bind, but also for "supertile" assemblies consisting of any number of tiles to attach. We consider a variety of models based on either the aTAM or the 2HAM. The underlying commonality of the work presented here is simulation. We introduce the polyTAM, where a tile system consists of a collection of polyomino tiles, and show that for any polyomino P of size greater than or equal to 3 and any Turing machine M , there exists a temperature-1 polyTAM system containing only shape-P tiles that simulates M . We introduce the RTAM (Reflexive Tile Assembly Model) that works like the aTAM except that tiles can nondeterministically flip prior to binding. We show that the temperature-1 RTAM cannot simulate a Turing machine by showing the much stronger result that the RTAM can only self-assemble "periodic" patterns. We then define notions of simulation which serve as relations between two tile assembly systems (possibly belonging to different models). Using simulation as a basis of comparison, we first show that cellular automata and the class of all tile assembly systems in the aTAM are equivalent. Next, we introduce the Dupled aTAM (DaTAM) and show that the temperature-2 aTAM and the temperature-1 DaTAM are "mutually exclusive" by showing that there is an aTAM system that cannot be simulated by any DaTAM system, and vice versa. Third, we consider the restricted glues Tile Assembly Model (rgTAM) and show that there is an aTAM system that cannot be simulated by any rgTAM system. We introduce the Dupled restricted glues Tile Assembly Model (DrgTAM), and show that the DrgTAM is intrinsically universal for the aTAM. Finally, we consider a variation of the Signal-passing Tile Assembly Model (STAM) called the STAM+ and show that the STAM+ is intrinsically universal and that the 3-D 2HAM is intrinsically universal for the STAM+.