In mathematics, specifically differential geometry, a geometric flow is the gradient flow associated to a functional on a manifold which has a geometric interpretation, usually associated with some extrinsic or intrinsic curvature. They can be interpreted as flows on a moduli space (for intrinsic flows) or a parameter space (for extrinsic flows).
A geometric flow is also called a geometric evolution equation.
- Mean curvature flow, as in soap films; critical points are minimal surfaces
- Willmore flow, as in minimax eversions of spheres
- Inverse mean curvature flow
Intrinsic geometric flows are flows on the Riemannian metric, independent of any embedding or immersion.
- Ricci flow, as in the solution of the Poincaré conjecture, and Richard Hamilton's proof of the uniformization theorem
- Calabi flow
- Yamabe flow
Classes of flows
Important classes of flows are curvature flows, variational flows (which extremize some functional), and flows arising as solutions to parabolic partial differential equations. A given flow frequently admits all of these interpretations, as follows.
If the equation is the Euler–Lagrange equation for some functional F, then the flow has a variational interpretation as the gradient flow of F, and stationary states of the flow correspond to critical points of the functional.
In the context of geometric flows, the functional is often the L2 norm of some curvature.
Thus, given a curvature K, one can define the functional , which has Euler–Lagrange equation for some elliptic operator L, and associated parabolic PDE .
Curvature flows may or may not preserve volume (the Calabi flow does, while the Ricci flow does not), and if not, the flow may simply shrink or grow the manifold, rather than regularizing the metric. Thus one often normalizes the flow, for instance by fixing the volume.
- Bakas, Ioannis (14 October 2005) [28 Jul 2005 (v1)]. "The algebraic structure of geometric flows in two dimensions". Journal of High Energy Physics 2005 (10): 038. arXiv:hep-th/0507284. doi:10.1088/1126-6708/2005/10/038.