Bu̧chi complementation made tighter

Ehud Friedgut*, Orna Kupferman, Moshe Y. Vardi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The complementation problem for nondeterministic word automata has numerous applications in formal verification. In particular, the language-containment problem, to which many verification problems is reduced, involves complementation. For automata on finite words, which correspond to safety properties, complementation involves determinization. The 2n blow-up that is caused by the subset construction is justified by a tight lower bound. For Büchi automata on infinite words, which are required for the modeling of liveness properties, optimal complementation constructions are quite complicated, as the subset construction is not sufficient. From a theoretical point of view, the problem is considered solved since 1988, when Safra came up with a determinization construction for Büchi automata, leading to a 2 o(nlogn) complementation construction, and Michel came up with a matching lower bound. A careful analysis, however, of the exact blow-up in Safra's and Michel's bounds reveals an exponential gap in the constants hiding in the O() notations: while the upper bound on the number of states in Safra's complementary automaton is n2n, Michel's lower bound involves only an n! blow up, which is roughly (n/e)n. The exponential gap exists also in more recent complementation constructions. In particular, the upper bound on the number of states in the complementation construction of Kupferman and Vardi, which avoids determinization, is (6n)n. This is in contrast with the case of automata on finite words, where the upper and lower bounds coincides. In this work we describe an improved complementation construction for nondeterministic Büchi automata and analyze its complexity. We show that the new construction results in an automaton with at most (0.96n)n states. While this leaves the problem about the exact blow up open, the gap is now exponentially smaller. From a practical point of view, our solution enjoys the simplicity of the construction of Kupferman and Vardi, and results in much smaller automata.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)851-867
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Foundations of Computer Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Orna Kupferman is supported in part by BSF grant 9800096, and by a grant from Minerva. Moshe Y. Vardi is supported in part by NSF grants CCR-9988322, CCR-0124077, CCR-0311326, IIS-9908435, IIS-9978135, EIA-0086264, and ANI-0216467, by BSF grant 9800096, by Texas ATP grant 003604-0058-2003, and by a grant from the Intel Corporation.


  • Complementation
  • Nondeterministic Büchi Automata


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