Dense packings of the Platonic and Archimedean solids

S. Torquato, Y. Jiao

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Abstract

Dense particle packings have served as useful models of the structures of liquid, glassy and crystalline states of matter, granular media, heterogeneous materials and biological systems. Probing the symmetries and other mathematical properties of the densest packings is a problem of interest in discrete geometry and number theory. Previous work has focused mainly on spherical particles-very little is known about dense polyhedral packings. Here we formulate the generation of dense packings of polyhedra as an optimization problem, using an adaptive fundamental cell subject to periodic boundary conditions (we term this the 'adaptive shrinking cell' scheme). Using a variety of multi-particle initial configurations, we find the densest known packings of the four non-tiling Platonic solids (the tetrahedron, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron) in three-dimensional Euclidean space. The densities are 0.782..., 0.947..., 0.904... and 0.836..., respectively. Unlike the densest tetrahedral packing, which must not be a Bravais lattice packing, the densest packings of the other non-tiling Platonic solids that we obtain are their previously known optimal (Bravais) lattice packings. Combining our simulation results with derived rigorous upper bounds and theoretical arguments leads us to the conjecture that the densest packings of the Platonic and Archimedean solids with central symmetry are given by their corresponding densest lattice packings. This is the analogue of Kepler's sphere conjecture for these solids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)876-879
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume460
Issue number7257
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 13 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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