Asymmetric unit

From Online Dictionary of Crystallography

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Unité asymétrique (Fr); Asymmetrische Einheit (Ge); Unidad asimétrica (Sp); Unità asimmetrica (It); 非対称単位 (Ja).

An asymmetric unit of a space group is a simply connected smallest closed part of space from which, by application of all symmetry operations of the space group, the whole space is filled. This implies that:

  • mirror planes must form boundary planes of the asymetric unit;
  • rotation axes must form boundary edges of the asymetric unit;
  • inversion centres must either form vertices of the asymetric unit or be located at the midpoints of boundary planes or boundary edges.

These restrictions do not hold for screw axes and glide planes.

The term "aysmmetric unit" does not mean that this region has an asymmetric shape. In mathematics it is called fundamental region or fundamental domain.

See also

  • Unit cell
  • Illustrations of the asymmetric units of the 230 space groups can be obtained on this link
  • Section in the International Tables for Crystallography, Volume A, 6th edition