Voro++ class reference manual


Voro++ is a software library for carrying out 3D cell-based calculations of the Voronoi tessellation. It is primarily designed for applications in physics and materials science, where the Voronoi tessellation can be a useful tool in analyzing particle systems.

Voro++ is comprised of several C++ classes, and is designed to be incorporated into other programs. This manual provides a reference for every function in the class structure. For a general overview of the program, see the Voro++ website at http://math.lbl.gov/voro++/ and in particular the example programs at http://math.lbl.gov/voro++/examples/ that demonstrate many of the library's features.

C++ class structure

The code is structured around two main C++ classes. The voronoicell class contains all of the routines for constructing a single Voronoi cell. It represents the cell as a collection of vertices that are connected by edges, and there are routines for initializing, making, and outputting the cell. The container class represents a three-dimensional simulation region into which particles can be added. The class can then carry out a variety of Voronoi calculations by computing cells using the voronoicell class. It also has a general mechanism using virtual functions to implement walls, discussed in more detail below. To implement the radical Voronoi tessellation and the neighbor calculations, two class variants called voronoicell_neighbor and container_poly are provided by making use of templates, which is discussed below.

The voronoicell class

The voronoicell class represents a single Voronoi cell as a convex polyhedron, with a set of vertices that are connected by edges. The class contains a variety of functions that can be used to compute and output the Voronoi cell corresponding to a particular particle. The command init() can be used to initialize a cell as a large rectangular box. The Voronoi cell can then be computed by repeatedly cutting it with planes that correspond to the perpendicular bisectors between that particle and its neighbors.

This is achieved by using the plane() routine, which will recompute the cell's vertices and edges after cutting it with a single plane. This is the key routine in voronoicell class. It begins by exploiting the convexity of the underlying cell, tracing between edges to work out if the cell intersects the cutting plane. If it does not intersect, then the routine immediately exits. Otherwise, it finds an edge or vertex that intersects the plane, and from there, traces out a new face on the cell, recomputing the edge and vertex structure accordingly.

Once the cell is computed, it can be drawn using commands such as draw_gnuplot() and draw_pov(), or its volume can be evaluated using the volume() function. Many more routines are available, and are described in the online reference manual.

Internal data representation

The voronoicell class has a public member p representing the number of vertices. The polyhedral structure of the cell is stored in the following arrays:

In a very large number of cases, the values of n_i will be 3. This is because the only way that a higher-order vertex can be created in the plane() routine is if the cutting plane perfectly intersects an existing vertex. For random particle arrangements with position vectors specified to double precision this should happen very rarely. A preliminary version of this code was quite successful with only making use of vertices of order 3. However, when calculating millions of cells, it was found that this approach is not robust, since a single floating point error can invalidate the computation. This can also be a problem for cases featuring crystalline arrangements of particles where the corresponding Voronoi cells may have high-order vertices by construction.

Because of this, Voro++ takes the approach that it if an existing vertex is within a small numerical tolerance of the cutting plane, it is treated as being exactly on the plane, and the polyhedral topology is recomputed accordingly. However, while this improves robustness, it also adds the complexity that n_i may no longer always be 3. This causes memory management to be significantly more complicated, as different vertices require a different number of elements in the ed[][] array. To accommodate this, the voronoicell class allocated edge memory in a different array called mep[][], in such a way that all vertices of order k are held in mep[k]. If vertex i has order k, then ed[i] points to memory within mep[k]. The array ed[][] is never directly initialized as a two-dimensional array itself, but points at allocations within mep[][]. To the user, it appears as though each row of ed[][] has a different number of elements. When vertices are added or deleted, care must be taken to reorder and reassign elements in these arrays.

During the plane() routine, the code traces around the vertices of the cell, and adds new vertices along edges which intersect the cutting plane to create a new face. The values of l(j,i) are used in this computation, as when the code is traversing from one vertex on the cell to another, this information allows the code to immediately work out which edge of a vertex points back to the one it came from. As new vertices are created, the l(j,i) are also updated to ensure consistency. To ensure robustness, the plane cutting algorithm should work with any possible combination of vertices which are inside, outside, or exactly on the cutting plane.

Vertices exactly on the cutting plane create some additional computational difficulties. If there are two marginal vertices connected by an existing edge, then it would be possible for duplicate edges to be created between those two vertices, if the plane routine traces along both sides of this edge while constructing the new face. The code recognizes these cases and prevents the double edge from being formed. Another possibility is the formation of vertices of order two or one. At the end of the plane cutting routine, the code checks to see if any of these are present, removing the order one vertices by just deleting them, and removing the order two vertices by connecting the two neighbors of each vertex together. It is possible that the removal of a single low-order vertex could result in the creation of additional low-order vertices, so the process is applied recursively until no more are left.

The container class

The container class represents a three-dimensional rectangular box of particles. The constructor for this class sets up the coordinate ranges, sets whether each direction is periodic or not, and divides the box into a rectangular subgrid of regions. Particles can be added to the container using the put() command, that adds a particle's position and an integer numerical ID label to the corresponding region. Alternatively, the command import() can be used to read large numbers of particles from a text file.

The key routine in this class is compute_cell(), which makes use of the voronoicell class to construct a Voronoi cell for a specific particle in the container. The basic approach that this function takes is to repeatedly cut the Voronoi cell by planes corresponding neighboring particles, and stop when it recognizes that all the remaining particles in the container are too far away to possibly influence cell's shape. The code makes use of two possible methods for working out when a cell computation is complete:

Another useful observation is that the regions that need to be tested are simply connected, meaning that if a particular region does not need to be tested, then neighboring regions which are further away do not need to be tested.

For maximum efficiency, it was found that a hybrid approach making use of both of the above tests worked well in practice. Radius tests work well for the first few blocks, but switching to region tests after then prevent the code from becoming extremely slow, due to testing over very large spherical shells of particles. The compute_cell() routine therefore takes the following approach:

The compute_cell() routine forms the basis of many other routines, such as store_cell_volumes() and draw_cells_gnuplot() that can be used to calculate and draw the cells in the entire container or in a subdomain.

Wall computation

Wall computations are handled by making use of a pure virtual wall class. Specific wall types are derived from this class, and require the specification of two routines: point_inside() that tests to see if a point is inside a wall or not, and cut_cell() that cuts a cell according to the wall's position. The walls can be added to the container using the add_wall() command, and these are called each time a compute_cell() command is carried out. At present, wall types for planes, spheres, cylinders, and cones are provided, although custom walls can be added by creating new classes derived from the pure virtual class. Currently all wall types approximate the wall surface with a single plane, which produces some small errors, but generally gives good results for dense particle packings in direct contact with a wall surface. It would be possible to create more accurate walls by making cut_cell() routines that approximate the curved surface with multiple plane cuts.

The wall objects can used for periodic calculations, although to obtain valid results, the walls should also be periodic as well. For example, in a domain that is periodic in the x direction, a cylinder aligned along the x axis could be added. At present, the interior of all wall objects are convex domains, and consequently any superposition of them will be a convex domain also. Carrying out computations in non-convex domains poses some problems, since this could theoretically lead to non-convex Voronoi cells, which the internal data representation of the voronoicell class does not support. For non-convex cases where the wall surfaces feature just a small amount of negative curvature (eg. a torus) approximating the curved surface with a single plane cut may give an acceptable level of accuracy. For non-convex cases that feature internal angles, the best strategy may be to decompose the domain into several convex subdomains, carry out a calculation in each, and then add the results together. The voronoicell class cannot be easily modified to handle non-convex cells as this would fundamentally alter the algorithms that it uses, and cases could arise where a single plane cut could create several new faces as opposed to just one.

Extra functionality via the use of templates

C++ templates are often presented as a mechanism for allowing functions to be coded to work with several different data types. However, they also provide an extremely powerful mechanism for achieving static polymorphism, allowing several variations of a program to be compiled from a single source code. Voro++ makes use of templates in order to handle the radical Voronoi tessellation and the neighbor calculations, both of which require only relatively minimal alterations to the main body of code.

The main body of the voronoicell class is written as template named voronoicell_base. Two additional small classes are then written: neighbor_track, which contains small, inlined functions that encapsulate all of the neighbor calculations, and neighbor_none, which contains the same function names left blank. By making use of the typedef command, two classes are then created from the template:

The two classes will be the same, except that the second will get all of the additional neighbor-tracking functionality compiled into it through the neighbor_track class. Since the two instances of the template are created during the compilation, and since all of the functions in neighbor_none and neighbor_track are inlined, there should be no speed overhead with this construction; it should have the same efficiency as writing two completely separate classes. C++ has other methods for achieving similar results, such as virtual functions and class inheritance, but these are more focused on dynamic polymorphism, switching between functionality at run-time, resulting in a drop in performance. This would be particularly apparent in this case, as the neighbor computation code, while small, is heavily integrated into the low-level details of the plane() routine, and a virtual function approach would require a very large number of function address look-ups.

In a similar manner, two small classes called radius_mono and radius_poly are provided. The first contains all routines suitable for calculate the standard Voronoi tessellation associated with a monodisperse particle packing, while the second incorporates variations to carry out the radical Voronoi tessellation associated with a polydisperse particle packing. Two classes are then created via typedef commands:

The container_poly class accepts an additional variable in the put() command for the particle's radius. These radii are then used to weight the plane positions in the compute_cell() routine.

It should be noted that the underlying template structure is largely hidden from a typical user accessing the library's functionality, and as demonstrated in the examples, the classes listed above behave like regular C++ classes, and can be used in all the same ways. However, the template structure may provide an additional method of customizing the code; for example, an additional radius class could be written to implement a Voronoi tessellation variant.

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