Adjoint Minimal Surfaces

A minimal surface can undergo an amazing geometric transformation called a Bonnet rotation in which every surface element maintains its normal vector but rotates a given angle in its tangent plane. If and only if the surface is a minimal surface, then the surface elements all fit together again. The Bonnet rotation is an isometry of the surface, that is, all distances within the surface are preserved; there is no stretching or wrinkling. As the Bonnet rotation angle increases, a continuous family of minimal surfaces is generated. Minimal surfaces that are ninety degree Bonnet rotations of each other are called adjoint surfaces. For example, the catenoid and helicoid are adjoints.
0 degree rotation 45 degree rotation 90 degree rotation
Catenoid, 0o rotation. 45o rotation. Helicoid, 90o rotation.

A multiply connected surface must be instead treated as its universal covering surface, as the catenoid-helicoid shows. Hence the adjoint of a triply periodic minimal surface will not usually be triply periodic (at least not a non-self-intersecting TPMS). Some pairs are adjoints, though, such as the P and D surfaces.

An important property of the adjoint transformation is that mirror planes transform to embedded two-fold rotation axes, and vice versa. For example, the equator of the catenoid turns into the midline of the helicoid.

A fact useful for generating TPMS shown in these pages is that the adjoint of an unstable fundamental region may be stable. All the free contact lines on the faces of the kaleidoscopic cells transform to fixed straight line boundaries, which are much more stable. However, the lengths of those boundaries are unknown a priori; they must be adjusted to make the surface match up going around a hole. This is the notorious period killing problem of proving a conjectured TPMS exists.

A nifty algorithm for the Bonnet rotation of triangulated minimal surfaces (such as the Surface Evolver produces) was discovered by Pinkall and Polthier. If each triangle is rotated by the Bonnet angle in its own plane, the triangles can be translated to be reassembled so the midpoints of the edges match up again. The edges are not parallel, so the triangle vertices do not quite match up. Thus the algorithm used in adjoint.cmd puts each vertex at the average position of all its images. To see a movie of such a Bonnet rotation on a patch with just a few facets (to better see how the facets wind up "nonconforming"), click here (1.4 MB). To see a movie of a many-thousand facet fundamental region of a Starfish surface, click here (1.6 MB).

My algorithm for computing a TMPS by its adjoint is as follows:


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