Solenoid (mathematics)

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This page discusses a class of topological groups. For the wrapped loop of wire, see Solenoid.
The Smale-Williams solenoid.

In mathematics, a solenoid is a compact connected topological space (i.e. a continuum) that may be obtained as the inverse limit of an inverse system of topological groups and continuous homomorphisms

where each is a circle and fi is the map that uniformly wraps the circle for times () around the circle . This construction can be carried out geometrically in the three-dimensional Euclidean space R3. A solenoid is a one-dimensional homogeneous indecomposable continuum that has the structure of a compact topological group.

Solenoids were first introduced by Vietoris for the case,[1] and by van Dantzig the case, where is fixed.[2] Such a solenoid arises as a one-dimensional expanding attractor, or Smale–Williams attractor, and forms an important example in the theory of hyperbolic dynamical systems.


Geometric construction and the Smale–Williams attractor[edit]

A solid torus wrapped twice around inside another solid torus in R3
The first six steps in the construction of the Smale-Williams attractor.

Each solenoid may be constructed as the intersection of a nested system of embedded solid tori in R3.

Fix a sequence of natural numbers {ni}, ni ≥ 2. Let T0 = S1 × D be a solid torus. For each i ≥ 0, choose a solid torus Ti+1 that is wrapped longitudinally ni times inside the solid torus Ti. Then their intersection

is homeomorphic to the solenoid constructed as the inverse limit of the system of circles with the maps determined by the sequence {ni}.

Here is a variant of this construction isolated by Stephen Smale as an example of an expanding attractor in the theory of smooth dynamical systems. Denote the angular coordinate on the circle S1 by t (it is defined mod 2π) and consider the complex coordinate z on the two-dimensional unit disk D. Let f be the map of the solid torus T = S1 × D into itself given by the explicit formula

This map is a smooth embedding of T into itself that preserves the foliation by meridional disks (the constants 1/2 and 1/4 are somewhat arbitrary, but it is essential that 1/4 < 1/2 and 1/4 + 1/2 < 1). If T is imagined as a rubber tube, the map f stretches it in the longitudinal direction, contracts each meridional disk, and wraps the deformed tube twice inside T with twisting, but without self-intersections. The hyperbolic set Λ of the discrete dynamical system (T, f) is the intersection of the sequence of nested solid tori described above, where Ti is the image of T under the ith iteration of the map f. This set is a one-dimensional (in the sense of topological dimension) attractor, and the dynamics of f on Λ has the following interesting properties:

General theory of solenoids and expanding attractors, not necessarily one-dimensional, was developed by R. F. Williams and involves a projective system of infinitely many copies of a compact branched manifold in place of the circle, together with an expanding self-immersion.

Construction in toroidal coordinates[edit]

In the toroidal coordinates with radius , the solenoid can be parametrized by as


Here, are adjustable shape-parameters, with constraint . In particular, works.

Let be the solenoid constructed this way, then the topology of the solenoid is just the subset topology induced by the Euclidean topology on .

Since the parametrization is bijective, we can pullback the topology on to , which makes itself the solenoid. This allows us to construct the inverse limit maps explicitly:

Construction by symbolic dynamics[edit]

Viewed as a set, the solenoid is just a Cantor-continuum of circles, wired together in a particular way. This suggests to us the construction by symbolic dynamics, where we start with a circle as a "racetrack", and append an "odometer" to keep track of which circle we are on.

Define as the solenoid. Next, define addition on the odometer , in the same way as p-adic numbers. Next, define addition on the solenoid by

The topology on the solenoid is generated by the basis containing the subsets , where is any open interval in , and is the set of all elements of starting with the initial segment .

Pathological properties[edit]

Solenoids are compact metrizable spaces that are connected, but not locally connected or path connected. This is reflected in their pathological behavior with respect to various homology theories, in contrast with the standard properties of homology for simplicial complexes. In Čech homology, one can construct a non-exact long homology sequence using a solenoid. In Steenrod-style homology theories,[3] the 0th homology group of a solenoid may have a fairly complicated structure, even though a solenoid is a connected space.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vietoris, L. (December 1927). "Über den höheren Zusammenhang kompakter Räume und eine Klasse von zusammenhangstreuen Abbildungen". Mathematische Annalen. 97 (1): 454–472. doi:10.1007/bf01447877. ISSN 0025-5831.
  2. ^ van Dantzig, D. (1930). "Ueber topologisch homogene Kontinua". Fundamenta Mathematicae. 15: 102–125. doi:10.4064/fm-15-1-102-125. ISSN 0016-2736.
  3. ^ "Steenrod-Sitnikov homology - Encyclopedia of Mathematics".

Further reading[edit]