Concept

# Close-packing of equal spheres

Résumé
In geometry, close-packing of equal spheres is a dense arrangement of congruent spheres in an infinite, regular arrangement (or lattice). Carl Friedrich Gauss proved that the highest average density – that is, the greatest fraction of space occupied by spheres – that can be achieved by a lattice packing is The same packing density can also be achieved by alternate stackings of the same close-packed planes of spheres, including structures that are aperiodic in the stacking direction. The Kepler conjecture states that this is the highest density that can be achieved by any arrangement of spheres, either regular or irregular. This conjecture was proven by T. C. Hales. Highest density is known only for 1, 2, 3, 8, and 24 dimensions. Many crystal structures are based on a close-packing of a single kind of atom, or a close-packing of large ions with smaller ions filling the spaces between them. The cubic and hexagonal arrangements are very close to one another in energy, and it may be difficult to predict which form will be preferred from first principles. TOC There are two simple regular lattices that achieve this highest average density. They are called face-centered cubic (FCC) (also called cubic close packed) and hexagonal close-packed (HCP), based on their symmetry. Both are based upon sheets of spheres arranged at the vertices of a triangular tiling; they differ in how the sheets are stacked upon one another. The FCC lattice is also known to mathematicians as that generated by the A3 root system. Cannonball problem The problem of close-packing of spheres was first mathematically analyzed by Thomas Harriot around 1587, after a question on piling cannonballs on ships was posed to him by Sir Walter Raleigh on their expedition to America. Cannonballs were usually piled in a rectangular or triangular wooden frame, forming a three-sided or four-sided pyramid. Both arrangements produce a face-centered cubic lattice – with different orientation to the ground. Hexagonal close-packing would result in a six-sided pyramid with a hexagonal base.
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