Heidelberg University

Sierpinski Tetrahedron
Numerical Geometry Group

Movie Sierpinsi-Tetrahedron

Rendering with Povray

Sierpinsi-Tetrahedron Poster (German) The Sierpinski tetrahedron has a simple construction principle which can be built impressively with metal spheres. The raytracing procedure is excellent for the reflections on spheres. The poster on the left side was rendered with 300 dpi for an ISO A0 format. The PDF can be downloaded here.

Click on the images to see a bigger version.

Iteration principle

The Sierpinski tetrahedron is the three dimensional version of the Sierpinski triangle of Waclaw Sierpinski (1915). Halving the sides of an equilateral triangle, you can inscribe three equilateral triangles of a quarter of the size of the area. The fractal dimension lies between one and two. The (similarity) dimension D is defined as logarithm of the multiplicity of the modules (c = 3, because three triangles substitute the original) divided by the logarithm of the reciprocal scaling factor (r = 2, because two edges fit into the original). Therefore we get D = log c/log r = log 3/log 2 = 1.58... .

Iteration step zero The iteration principle for a tetrahedron is similar: the whole volume will be replaced by four tetrahedrons with half the length of the edges. The (similarity) dimension of this fractal is astonishingly an integer and computes to two: D = log 4/log 2 = 2.

On the right hand side you see a simple tetrahedron built out of four spheres, the zeroth iteration step.

Iteration step one In the next iteration step a tetrahedron of half the size will be constructed in each vertex of the original. In this new tetrahedron there is a hole of the size of an octahedron with triangle surfaces.

Iterations steps two to seven

Iteration step two Iteration step three Iteration step four Going through the next iteration steps, the number of spheres used will increase by a factor of four for each step. The diameter will be halved at the same time.

Iteration step five Iteration step six Iteration step seven Proceeding to infinity with this process leads to a fractal structure.

Iterations step three with shadow in form of a rhombus Its dimension is at least two, which can be seen easily when parallel light is coming in over the middle of one edge and shining towards the middle of the opposite edge. The resulting shadow then is a filled rhombus.

S. Krömker, 
Last Update: 01.02.2011
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