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This form of the aperiodic Penrose tiling has two prototiles, a thick rhombus (shown blue in the figure) and a thin rhombus (green). Penrose Tiling (Rhombi).svg
This form of the aperiodic Penrose tiling has two prototiles, a thick rhombus (shown blue in the figure) and a thin rhombus (green).

In the mathematical theory of tessellations, a prototile is one of the shapes of a tile in a tessellation. [1]



A tessellation of the plane or of any other space is a cover of the space by closed shapes, called tiles, that have disjoint interiors. Some of the tiles may be congruent to one or more others. If S is the set of tiles in a tessellation, a set R of shapes is called a set of prototiles if no two shapes in R are congruent to each other, and every tile in S is congruent to one of the shapes in R. [2]

It is possible to choose many different sets of prototiles for a tiling: translating or rotating any one of the prototiles produces another valid set of prototiles. However, every set of prototiles has the same cardinality, so the number of prototiles is well defined. A tessellation is said to be monohedral if it has exactly one prototile.


Unsolved problem in mathematics:

Does there exist a two-dimensional aperiodic prototile?

A set of prototiles is said to be aperiodic if every tiling with those prototiles is an aperiodic tiling. It is unknown whether there exists a single two-dimensional shape (called an einstein ) [3] that forms the prototile of an aperiodic tiling, but not of any periodic tiling. That is, the existence of a single-tile (monohedral) aperiodic prototile set is an open problem. The Socolar–Taylor tile forms two-dimensional aperiodic tilings, but is defined by combinatorial matching conditions rather than purely by its shape. In higher dimensions, the problem is solved: the Schmitt-Conway-Danzer tile is the prototile of a monohedral aperiodic tiling of three-dimensional Euclidean space, and cannot tile space periodically.

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Tessellation Tiling of a plane in mathematics

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Discrete geometry Branch of geometry that studies combinatorial properties and constructive methods

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Aperiodic tiling Specific form of plane tiling in mathematics

An aperiodic tiling is a non-periodic tiling with the additional property that it does not contain arbitrarily large periodic regions or patches. A set of tile-types is aperiodic if copies of these tiles can form only non-periodic tilings. The Penrose tilings are the best-known examples of aperiodic tilings.

Rhombille tiling Tiling of the plane with 60° rhombi

In geometry, the rhombille tiling, also known as tumbling blocks, reversible cubes, or the dice lattice, is a tessellation of identical 60° rhombi on the Euclidean plane. Each rhombus has two 60° and two 120° angles; rhombi with this shape are sometimes also called diamonds. Sets of three rhombi meet at their 120° angles, and sets of six rhombi meet at their 60° angles.

Pentagonal tiling

In geometry, a pentagonal tiling is a tiling of the plane where each individual piece is in the shape of a pentagon.

In geometry, a tile substitution is a method for constructing highly ordered tilings. Most importantly, some tile substitutions generate aperiodic tilings, which are tilings whose prototiles do not admit any tiling with translational symmetry. The most famous of these are the Penrose tilings. Substitution tilings are special cases of finite subdivision rules, which do not require the tiles to be geometrically rigid.

Parallelohedron Polyhedron that tiles space by translation

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Penrose tiling Non-periodic tiling of the plane

A Penrose tiling is an example of an aperiodic tiling. Here, a tiling is a covering of the plane by non-overlapping polygons or other shapes, and aperiodic means that shifting any tiling with these shapes by any finite distance, without rotation, cannot produce the same tiling. However, despite their lack of translational symmetry, Penrose tilings may have both reflection symmetry and fivefold rotational symmetry. Penrose tilings are named after mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose, who investigated them in the 1970s.

Kellers conjecture Geometry problem on tiling by hypercubes

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Pythagorean tiling Tiling by squares of two sizes

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Socolar–Taylor tile Aperiodic tile

The Socolar–Taylor tile is a single non-connected tile which is aperiodic on the Euclidean plane, meaning that it admits only non-periodic tilings of the plane, with rotations and reflections of the tile allowed. It is the first known example of a single aperiodic tile, or "einstein". The basic version of the tile is a simple hexagon, with printed designs to enforce a local matching rule, regarding how the tiles may be placed. It is currently unknown whether this rule may be geometrically implemented in two dimensions while keeping the tile a connected set.

Aperiodic set of prototiles

A set of prototiles is aperiodic if copies of the prototiles can be assembled to create tilings, such that all possible tessellation patterns are non-periodic. The aperiodicity referred to is a property of the particular set of prototiles; the various resulting tilings themselves are just non-periodic.

Self-tiling tile set

A self-tiling tile set, or setiset, of order n is a set of n shapes or pieces, usually planar, each of which can be tiled with smaller replicas of the complete set of n shapes. That is, the n shapes can be assembled in n different ways so as to create larger copies of themselves, where the increase in scale is the same in each case. Figure 1 shows an example for n = 4 using distinctly shaped decominoes. The concept can be extended to include pieces of higher dimension. The name setisets was coined by Lee Sallows in 2012, but the problem of finding such sets for n = 4 was asked decades previously by C. Dudley Langford, and examples for polyaboloes and polyominoes were previously published by Gardner.

Conway criterion

In the mathematical theory of tessellations, the Conway criterion, named for the English mathematician John Horton Conway, describes rules for when a prototile will tile the plane; it consists of the following requirements: The tile must be a closed topological disk with six consecutive points A, B, C, D, E, and F on the boundary such that:

In plane geometry, the einstein problem asks about the existence of a single prototile that by itself forms an aperiodic set of prototiles, that is, a shape that can tessellate space, but only in a nonperiodic way. Such a shape is called an "einstein", a play on the German words ein Stein, meaning one tile. Depending on the particular definitions of nonperiodicity and the specifications of what sets may qualify as tiles and what types of matching rules are permitted, the problem is either open or solved. The einstein problem can be seen as a natural extension of the second part of Hilbert's eighteenth problem, which asks for a single polyhedron that tiles Euclidean 3-space, but such that no tessellation by this polyhedron is isohedral. Such anisohedral tiles were found by Karl Reinhardt in 1928, but these anisohedral tiles all tile space periodically.

In geometry, a plesiohedron is a special kind of space-filling polyhedron, defined as the Voronoi cell of a symmetric Delone set. Three-dimensional Euclidean space can be completely filled by copies of any one of these shapes, with no overlaps. The resulting honeycomb will have symmetries that take any copy of the plesiohedron to any other copy.


  1. Cederberg, Judith N. (2001), A Course in Modern Geometries, Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics (2nd ed.), Springer-Verlag, p. 174, ISBN   978-0-387-98972-3 .
  2. Kaplan, Craig S. (2009), Introductory Tiling Theory for Computer Graphics, Synthesis Lectures on Computer Graphics and Animation, Morgan & Claypool Publishers, p. 7, ISBN   978-1-60845-017-6 .
  3. Socolar, Joshua E. S.; Taylor, Joan M. (2012), "Forcing nonperiodicity with a single tile", The Mathematical Intelligencer, 34 (1): 18–28, arXiv: 1009.1419 , doi:10.1007/s00283-011-9255-y, MR   2902144 .