In geometry, a honeycomb is a space filling or close packing of polyhedral or higher-dimensional cells, so that there are no gaps. It is an example of the more general mathematical tiling or tessellation in any number of dimensions.
Honeycombs are usually constructed in ordinary Euclidean ("flat") space. They may also be constructed in non-Euclidean spaces, such as hyperbolic honeycombs. Any finite uniform polytope can be projected to its circumsphere to form a uniform honeycomb in spherical space.
There are infinitely many honeycombs, which have only been partially classified. The more regular ones have attracted the most interest, while a rich and varied assortment of others continue to be discovered.
The simplest honeycombs to build are formed from stacked layers or slabs of prisms based on some tessellation of the plane. In particular, for every parallelepiped, copies can fill space, with the cubic honeycomb being special because it is the only regular honeycomb in ordinary (Euclidean) space. Another interesting family is the Hill tetrahedra and their generalizations, which can also tile the space.
A uniform honeycomb is a honeycomb in Euclidean 3-space composed of uniform polyhedral cells, and having all vertices the same (i.e., the group of [isometries of 3-space that preserve the tiling] is transitive on vertices). There are 28 convex examples, also called the Archimedean honeycombs.
A honeycomb is called regular if the group of isometries preserving the tiling acts transitively on flags, where a flag is a vertex lying on an edge lying on a face lying on a cell. Every regular honeycomb is automatically uniform. However, there is just one regular honeycomb in Euclidean 3-space, the cubic honeycomb. Two are quasiregular (made from two types of regular cells):
|Type||Regular cubic honeycomb||Quasiregular honeycombs|
|Cells||Cubic||Octahedra and tetrahedra|
The tetrahedral-octahedral honeycomb and gyrated tetrahedral-octahedral honeycombs are generated by 3 or 2 positions of slab layer of cells, each alternating tetrahedra and octahedra. An infinite number of unique honeycombs can be created by higher order of patterns of repeating these slab layers.
A honeycomb having all cells identical within its symmetries is said to be cell-transitive or isochoric. A cell of such a honeycomb is said to be a space-filling polyhedron. Known examples include:
- The regular packings of cubes, hexagonal prisms, and triangular prisms.
- The uniform gyrated triangular prismatic honeycomb
- The uniform packing of truncated octahedra.
- The rhombic dodecahedral honeycomb.
- The triakis truncated tetrahedral honeycomb. The Voronoi cells of the carbon atoms in diamond are this shape.
- The trapezo-rhombic dodecahedral honeycomb.
- The elongated dodecahedron honeycomb.
- A packing of any cuboid, rhombic hexahedron or parallelepiped.
- Isohedral simple tilings.
Sometimes, two  or more different polyhedra may be combined to fill space. Besides many of the uniform honeycombs, another well known example is the Weaire–Phelan structure, adopted from the structure of clathrate hydrate crystals 
Documented examples are rare. Two classes can be distinguished:
- Non-convex cells which pack without overlapping, analogous to tilings of concave polygons. These include a packing of the small stellated rhombic dodecahedron, as in the Yoshimoto Cube.
- Overlapping of cells whose positive and negative densities 'cancel out' to form a uniformly dense continuum, analogous to overlapping tilings of the plane.
In hyperbolic space, the dihedral angle of a polyhedron depends on its size. The regular hyperbolic honeycombs thus include two with four or five dodecahedra meeting at each edge; their dihedral angles thus are π/2 and 2π/5, both of which are less than that of a Euclidean dodecahedron. Apart from this effect, the hyperbolic honeycombs obey the same topological constraints as Euclidean honeycombs and polychora.
Duality of honeycombs
For every honeycomb there is a dual honeycomb, which may be obtained by exchanging:
- cells for vertices.
- faces for edges.
These are just the rules for dualising four-dimensional polychora, except that the usual finite method of reciprocation about a concentric hypersphere can run into problems.
The more regular honeycombs dualise neatly:
- The cubic honeycomb is self-dual.
- That of octahedra and tetrahedra is dual to that of rhombic dodecahedra.
- The slab honeycombs derived from uniform plane tilings are dual to each other in the same way that the tilings are.
- The duals of the remaining Archimedean honeycombs are all cell-transitive and have been described by Inchbald.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tilings of 3-space.|
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