In mathematics, a foliation is a geometric device used to study manifolds. Informally speaking, a foliation is a kind of "clothing" worn on a manifold, cut from a striped fabric. On each sufficiently small piece of the manifold, these stripes give the manifold a local product structure. This product structure does not have to be consistent outside local patches (i.e., well-defined globally): a stripe followed around long enough might return to a different, nearby stripe.


More formally, a dimension p foliation F of an n-dimensional manifold M is a covering by charts U_i together with maps

:phi_i:U_i o R^n

such that on the overlaps U_i cap U_j the transition functions varphi_{ij}:mathbb{R}^n omathbb{R}^n defined by

:varphi_{ij} =phi_j phi_i^{-1}

take the form

:varphi_{ij}(x,y) = (varphi_{ij}^1(x),varphi_{ij}^2(x,y))

where x denotes the first n-p co-ordinates, and y denotes the last "p" co-ordinates. That is,:varphi_{ij}^1:mathbb{R}^{n-p} omathbb{R}^{n-p} and :varphi_{ij}^2:mathbb{R}^n omathbb{R}^{p}. In the chart U_i, the stripes x= constant match up with the stripes on other charts U_j. Technically, these stripes are called plaques of the foliation. In each chart, the plaques are n-p dimensional submanifolds. These submanifolds piece together from chart to chart to form maximal connected injectively immersed submanifolds called the leaves of the foliation.

If we shrink the chart U_i it can be written in the form U_{ix} imes U_{iy} where U_{ix}subsetmathbb{R}^{n-p} and U_{iy}subsetmathbb{R}^p and U_{iy} is isomorphic to the plaques and the points of U_{ix} parametrize the plaques in U_i. If we pick a y_0in U_{iy}, U_{ix} imes{y_0} is a submanifold of U_i that intersects every plaque exactly once. This is called a local "transversal section" of the foliation. Note that due to monodromy there might not exist global transversal sections of the foliation.


Flat space

Consider an n-dimensional space, foliated as a product by subspaces consisting of points whose first n-p co-ordinates are constant. This can be covered with a single chart. The statement is essentially that

:mathbb{R}^n=mathbb{R}^{n-p} imes mathbb{R}^{p}

with the leaves or plaques mathbb{R}^{n-p} being enumerated by mathbb{R}^{p}. The analogy is seen directly in three dimensions, by taking n=3 and p=1: the two-dimensional leaves of a book are enumerated by a (one-dimensional) page number.


If M o N is a covering between manifolds, and F is a foliation on N, then it pulls back to a foliation on M. More generally, if the map is merely a branched covering, where the branch locus is transverse to the foliation, then the foliation can be pulled back.


If M^n o N^q (where q leq n ) is a submersion of manifolds, it follows from the inverse function theorem that the connected components of the fibers of the submersion define a codimension q foliation of M . Fiber bundles are an example of this type.

Lie groups

If G is a Lie group, and H is a subgroup obtained by exponentiating a closed subalgebra of the Lie algebra of G, then G is foliated by cosets of H.

Lie group actions

Let G be a Lie group acting smoothly on a manifold M . If the action is a locally free action or free action, then the orbits of G define a foliation of M .

Foliations and integrability

There is a close relationship, assuming everything is smooth, with vector fields: given a vector field Xon M that is never zero, its integral curves will give a 1-dimensional foliation. (i.e. a codimension n-1 foliation).

This observation generalises to a theorem of Ferdinand Georg Frobenius (the Frobenius theorem), saying that the necessary and sufficient conditions for a distribution (i.e. an n-p dimensional subbundle of the tangent bundle of a manifold) to be tangent to the leaves of a foliation, are that the set of vector fields tangent to the distribution are closed under Lie bracket. One can also phrase this differently, as a question of reduction of the structure group of the tangent bundle from GL(n) to a reducible subgroup.

The conditions in the Frobenius theorem appear as integrability conditions; and the assertion is that if those are fulfilled the reduction can take place because local transition functions with the required block structure exist.

There is a global foliation theory, because topological constraints exist. For example in the surface case, an everywhere non-zero vector field can exist on an orientable compact surface only for the torus. This is a consequence of the Poincaré-Hopf index theorem, which shows the Euler characteristic will have to be 0.

ee also

*Classifying space for foliations
*Reeb foliation
*Taut foliation


*Lawson, H. Blaine, [ "Foliations"]
*I.Moerdijk, J. Mrčun: Introduction to Foliations and Lie groupoids, Cambridge University Press 2003, ISBN 0521831970 (with proofs)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • foliation — [ fɔljasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1757; du lat. folium « feuille » 1 ♦ Bot. Disposition des feuilles sur la tige. Développement des feuilles. ⇒ feuillaison. 2 ♦ Géol. Structure en feuillets observée dans certaines roches. ● foliation nom féminin (latin… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Foliation — Fo li*a tion, n. [Cf. F. foliation.] 1. The process of forming into a leaf or leaves. [1913 Webster] 2. The manner in which the young leaves are dispo?ed within the bud. [1913 Webster] The . . . foliation must be in relation to the stem. De… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • foliation — (n.) 1620s, from Fr. foliation or directly from L. foliatus (see FOLIATE (Cf. foliate)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Foliation — (v. lat.), die Belaubung, der Act, wodurch eine Pflanze Blätter erhält, od. auch die Gesammtheit der Blätter. Foliatus, beblättert …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Foliation — Foliation, lat. deutsch, das Ausschlagen der Bäume …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • foliation — [fō΄lē ā′shən] n. [ML foliatio: see FOLIATE] 1. a growing of or developing into a leaf or leaves; leaf formation 2. the state of being in leaf 3. the way leaves are arranged in the bud; vernation 4. the act or process of beating metal into layers …   English World dictionary

  • foliation — /foh lee ay sheuhn/, n. 1. the act or process of putting forth leaves. 2. the state of being in leaf. 3. Bot. a. the arrangement of leaves within a bud. b. the arrangement of leaves on a plant. 4. leaves or foliage. 5. Print. the consecutive… …   Universalium

  • Foliation — La foliation (du latin folium, feuille) est une structuration en plans distincts des roches métamorphiques. La structure est marquée par l orientation préférentielle de minéraux visibles à l œil nu le plus souvent les micas et aussi en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • FOLIATION — n. f. T. de Botanique Disposition des feuilles autour de la tige. Il se dit aussi du Moment où les bourgeons commencent à développer leurs feuilles. L’époque de la foliation. Dans ce sens il est synonyme de FEUILLAISON …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 8eme edition (1935)

  • foliation — sluoksniavimasis statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Išsiskirstymas sluoksniais. atitikmenys: angl. delamination; exfoliation; foliation; lamination; settling; splitting; stratification rus. расслаивание; расслоение …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.