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# Differential geometry applied to crystallography

The mathematical facet of modern crystallography is essentially based on analytical geometry, linear algebra as well as group theory. This study endeavours to approach the geometry and symmetry of crystals using the tools furnished by differential geometry and the theory of Lie groups. These two branches of mathematics being little known to crystallographers, the pertinent definitions such as differentiable manifold, tangent space or metric tensor or even isometries on a manifold together with some important results are given first. The example of euclidean space, taken as riemannian manifold, is treated, in order to show that the affine aspect of this space is not at all an axiom but the consequence of the euclidean nature of the manifold. Attention is then directed to a particular subgroup of the group of euclidean isometries, namely that of translations. This has the property of a Lie group and it turns out that the action of its elements, as well as those of its Lie algebra, plays an important role in generating a lattice on a manifold and in its tangent space, too. In particular, it is pointed out that one and only one finite and free module of the Lie algebra of the group of translations can generate both, modulated and non-modulated lattices. This last classification therefore appears continuous rather than black and white and is entirely determined by the parametrisation considered. Since a lattice in a tangent space has the properties of a vector space, it always possesses the structure of a finite, free module, which shows that the assignment of aperiodicity to modulated structures is quite subjective, even unmotivated. Thanks to the concept of representation of a lattice or a crystal in a tangent space, novel definitions of the notions of symmetry operation of a space group and point symmetry operation, as well as symmetry element and intrinsic translation arise; they altogether naturally blend into the framework of differential geometry. In order to conveniently pass from one representation of a crystal in one tangent space to another or to the structure on a manifold, an equivalence relation on the tangent bundle of the manifold is introduced. This relation furthermore allows to extend the concept of symmetry operation to the tangent bundle; this extension furnishes, particularly in the euclidean case, a very practical way of representing symmetry operations of space groups completely devoid of any dependence on an origin, or, in other words, in which each and every point may be considered the origin. The investigation of the group of translations having being completed, the study of the linear parts of the isometries comes naturally. Based on the fact that the set of linear parts possesses the structure of a Lie group, several results are proven in a rigorous manner, such as the fact that a rotation angle of π/3 is incompatible with a three-dimensional cubic lattice. Procedures for determining different crystal systems in function of the type of rotation are laid out by way of the study of orthogonal matrices and their relation to the matrix associated with the type of system. Finally, the description of a crystal by its diffraction patterns is taken on. It is shown that the general aspect of such a pattern is directly linked to the action of that free and finite module of the Lie algebra of translations which generates a lattice on a manifold. In the case of modulated crystals, it is demonstrated that the appearance of supplementary spots is caused by the geometry, i.e. by the parametrisation of the manifold in which the crystal exists and not by the action of the module in the Lie algebra. Thus, there exists a neat separation: the geometrical aspect on the one hand, and the action of the group on the other. As the last topic, other ways of interpreting the diffraction pattern of a modulated structure are laid out in order to argue that mere experimental data do not warrant the uniqueness of a model. The goal of this study is by no means an attempt at overthrowing existing structural models such as the superspace-formalism or at revolutionising the methods for determining structures, but is rather aimed at sustaining that the definition of certain notions becomes thoroughly natural within the appropriate mathematical framework, and, that the term aperiodicity assigned to modulated structures no longer has a true meaning.

Keywords: differential geometry ; Lie groups ; symmetry ; modulated structures ; géométrie différentielle ; groupes de Lie ; symétrie ; structures modulées

Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 4378 (2009)Programme doctoral Physique

Faculté des sciences de base

Institut de physique des systèmes biologiques

Laboratoire de cristallographie 1

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Record created on 2009-04-06, modified on 2017-05-12