Last updated

Isotropy is uniformity in all orientations; it is derived from the Greek isos (ἴσος, "equal") and tropos (τρόπος, "way"). Precise definitions depend on the subject area. Exceptions, or inequalities, are frequently indicated by the prefix an, hence anisotropy . Anisotropy is also used to describe situations where properties vary systematically, dependent on direction. Isotropic radiation has the same intensity regardless of the direction of measurement, and an isotropic field exerts the same action regardless of how the test particle is oriented.

Anisotropy property of being directionally dependent, which implies different properties in different directions, as opposed to isotropy

Anisotropy is the property of being directionally dependent, which implies different properties in different directions, as opposed to isotropy. It can be defined as a difference, when measured along different axes, in a material's physical or mechanical properties

Isotropic radiation is radiation that has the same intensity regardless of the direction of measurement, such as would be found in a thermal cavity. The radiation may be electromagnetic, sound or may be composed of elementary particles.

Measurement Process of assigning numbers to objects or events

Measurement is the assignment of a number to a characteristic of an object or event, which can be compared with other objects or events. The scope and application of measurement are dependent on the context and discipline. In the natural sciences and engineering, measurements do not apply to nominal properties of objects or events, which is consistent with the guidelines of the International vocabulary of metrology published by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. However, in other fields such as statistics as well as the social and behavioral sciences, measurements can have multiple levels, which would include nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio scales.



Within mathematics, isotropy has a few different meanings:

Mathematics Field of study concerning quantity, patterns and change

Mathematics includes the study of such topics as quantity, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and change. It has no generally accepted definition.

Isotropic manifolds
A manifold is isotropic if the geometry on the manifold is the same regardless of direction. A similar concept is homogeneity.
Isotropic quadratic form
A quadratic form q is said to be isotropic if there is a non-zero vector v such that q(v) = 0; such a v is an isotropic vector or null vector. In complex geometry, a line through the origin in the direction of an isotropic vector is an isotropic line.
Isotropic coordinates
Isotropic coordinates are coordinates on an isotropic chart for Lorentzian manifolds.
Isotropy group
An isotropy group is the group of isomorphisms from any object to itself in a groupoid.[ dubious ] [1] An isotropy representation is a representation of an isotropy group.
Isotropic position
A probability distribution over a vector space is in isotropic position if its covariance matrix is the identity.


Quantum mechanics or particle physics
When a spinless particle (or even an unpolarized particle with spin) decays, the resulting decay distribution must be isotropic in the rest frame of the decaying particle regardless of the detailed physics of the decay. This follows from rotational invariance of the Hamiltonian, which in turn is guaranteed for a spherically symmetric potential.
Kinetic theory of gases is also an example of isotropy. It is assumed that the molecules move in random directions and as a consequence, there is an equal probability of a molecule moving in any direction. Thus when there are many molecules in the gas, with high probability there will be very similar numbers moving in one direction as any other, demonstrating approximate isotropy.
Fluid dynamics
Fluid flow is isotropic if there is no directional preference (e.g. in fully developed 3D turbulence). An example of anisotropy is in flows with a background density as gravity works in only one direction. The apparent surface separating two differing isotropic fluids would be referred to as an isotrope.
Thermal expansion
A solid is said to be isotropic if the expansion of solid is equal in all directions when thermal energy is provided to the solid.
An isotropic medium is one such that the permittivity, ε, and permeability, μ, of the medium are uniform in all directions of the medium, the simplest instance being free space.
Optical isotropy means having the same optical properties in all directions. The individual reflectance or transmittance of the domains is averaged if the macroscopic reflectance or transmittance is to be calculated. This can be verified simply by investigating, e.g., a polycrystalline material under a polarizing microscope having the polarizers crossed: If the crystallites are larger than the resolution limit, they will be visible.
The Big Bang theory of the evolution of the observable universe assumes that space is isotropic. [2] It also assumes that space is homogeneous. [2] These two assumptions together are known as the cosmological principle. As of 2006, the observations suggest that, on distance scales much larger than galaxies, galaxy clusters are "Great" features, but small compared to so-called multiverse scenarios. Here homogeneous means that the universe is the same everywhere (no preferred origin) and isotropic implies that there is no preferred direction.

Materials science

This sand grain made of volcanic glass is isotropic, and thus, stays extinct when rotated between polarization filters on a petrographic microscope LvMS-Lvv.jpg
This sand grain made of volcanic glass is isotropic, and thus, stays extinct when rotated between polarization filters on a petrographic microscope

In the study of mechanical properties of materials, "isotropic" means having identical values of a property in all directions. This definition is also used in geology and mineralogy. Glass and metals are examples of isotropic materials. [3] Common anisotropic materials include wood, because its material properties are different parallel and perpendicular to the grain, and layered rocks such as slate.

Geology The study of the composition, structure, physical properties, and history of Earths components, and the processes by which they are shaped.

Geology is an earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Geology can also include the study of the solid features of any terrestrial planet or natural satellite such as Mars or the Moon. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other earth sciences, including hydrology and the atmospheric sciences, and so is treated as one major aspect of integrated earth system science and planetary science.

Mineralogy Scientific study of minerals and mineralised artifacts

Mineralogy is a subject of geology specializing in the scientific study of the chemistry, crystal structure, and physical properties of minerals and mineralized artifacts. Specific studies within mineralogy include the processes of mineral origin and formation, classification of minerals, their geographical distribution, as well as their utilization.

Wood Fibrous material from trees or other plants

Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic material - a natural composite of cellulose fibers that are strong in tension and embedded in a matrix of lignin that resists compression. Wood is sometimes defined as only the secondary xylem in the stems of trees, or it is defined more broadly to include the same type of tissue elsewhere such as in the roots of trees or shrubs. In a living tree it performs a support function, enabling woody plants to grow large or to stand up by themselves. It also conveys water and nutrients between the leaves, other growing tissues, and the roots. Wood may also refer to other plant materials with comparable properties, and to material engineered from wood, or wood chips or fiber.

Isotropic materials are useful since they are easier to shape, and their behavior is easier to predict. Anisotropic materials can be tailored to the forces an object is expected to experience. For example, the fibers in carbon fiber materials and rebars in reinforced concrete are oriented to withstand tension.

Rebar steel bar or mesh used within concrete

Rebar, known when massed as reinforcing steel or reinforcement steel, is a steel bar or mesh of steel wires used as a tension device in reinforced concrete and reinforced masonry structures to strengthen and aid the concrete under tension. Concrete is strong under compression, but has weak tensile strength. Rebar significantly increases the tensile strength of the structure. Rebar's surface is often deformed to promote a better bond with the concrete.

Reinforced concrete composite building material

Reinforced concrete (RC) (also called reinforced cement concrete or RCC) is a composite material in which concrete's relatively low tensile strength and ductility are counteracted by the inclusion of reinforcement having higher tensile strength or ductility. The reinforcement is usually, though not necessarily, steel reinforcing bars (rebar) and is usually embedded passively in the concrete before the concrete sets. Reinforcing schemes are generally designed to resist tensile stresses in particular regions of the concrete that might cause unacceptable cracking and/or structural failure. Modern reinforced concrete can contain varied reinforcing materials made of steel, polymers or alternate composite material in conjunction with rebar or not. Reinforced concrete may also be permanently stressed, so as to improve the behaviour of the final structure under working loads. In the United States, the most common methods of doing this are known as pre-tensioning and post-tensioning.


In industrial processes, such as etching steps, isotropic means that the process proceeds at the same rate, regardless of direction. Simple chemical reaction and removal of a substrate by an acid, a solvent or a reactive gas is often very close to isotropic. Conversely, anisotropic means that the attack rate of the substrate is higher in a certain direction. Anisotropic etch processes, where vertical etch-rate is high, but lateral etch-rate is very small are essential processes in microfabrication of integrated circuits and MEMS devices.

Microfabrication processes of fabrication of miniature structures

Microfabrication is the process of fabricating miniature structures of micrometre scales and smaller. Historically, the earliest microfabrication processes were used for integrated circuit fabrication, also known as "semiconductor manufacturing" or "semiconductor device fabrication". In the last two decades microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), microsystems, micromachines and their subfields, microfluidics/lab-on-a-chip, optical MEMS, RF MEMS, PowerMEMS, BioMEMS and their extension into nanoscale have re-used, adapted or extended microfabrication methods. Flat-panel displays and solar cells are also using similar techniques.

Microelectromechanical systems technology of very small devices

Microelectromechanical systems is the technology of microscopic devices, particularly those with moving parts. It merges at the nano-scale into nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) and nanotechnology. MEMS are also referred to as micromachines in Japan, or micro systems technology (MST) in Europe.

Antenna (radio)

An isotropic antenna is an idealized "radiating element" used as a reference; an antenna that broadcasts power equally (calculated by the Poynting vector) in all directions. The gain of an arbitrary antenna is usually reported in decibels relative to an isotropic antenna, and is expressed as dBi or dB(i).

Radiator Radiant body through water or other liquids. Type of heat exchanger

Radiators are heat exchangers used to transfer thermal energy from one medium to another for the purpose of cooling and heating. The majority of radiators are constructed to function in automobiles, buildings, and electronics. The radiator is always a source of heat to its environment, although this may be for either the purpose of heating this environment, or for cooling the fluid or coolant supplied to it, as for engine cooling. Despite the name, most radiators transfer the bulk of their heat via convection instead of thermal radiation.

Reference is a relation between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another object. The first object in this relation is said to refer to the second object. It is called a name for the second object. The second object, the one to which the first object refers, is called the referent of the first object. A name is usually a phrase or expression, or some other symbolic representation. Its referent may be anything – a material object, a person, an event, an activity, or an abstract concept.

Poynting vector

In physics, the Poynting vector represents the directional energy flux of an electromagnetic field. The SI unit of the Poynting vector is the watt per square metre (W/m2). It is named after its discoverer John Henry Poynting who first derived it in 1884. Oliver Heaviside also discovered it independently.


Cell biology
If the properties of the cell wall are more or less the same everywhere, it is said to be isotropic. The interior of the cell is anisotropic due to intracellular organelles.
In skeletal muscle cells (a.k.a. muscle fibers), the term "isotropic" refers to the light bands (I bands) that contribute to the striated pattern of the cells.
While it is well established that the skin provides an ideal site for the administration of local and systemic drugs, it presents a formidable barrier to the permeation of most substances. [4] Most recently, isotropic formulations have been used extensively in dermatology for drug delivery. [5]

Other sciences

Economics and geography
An isotropic region is a region that has the same properties everywhere. Such a region is a construction needed in many types of models.

See also

Related Research Articles

In differential geometry, one can attach to every point of a smooth manifold, , a vector space called the cotangent space at . Typically, the cotangent space, is defined as the dual space of the tangent space at , , although there are more direct definitions. The elements of the cotangent space are called cotangent vectors or tangent covectors.

A magneto-optic effect is any one of a number of phenomena in which an electromagnetic wave propagates through a medium that has been altered by the presence of a quasistatic magnetic field. In such a medium, which is also called gyrotropic or gyromagnetic, left- and right-rotating elliptical polarizations can propagate at different speeds, leading to a number of important phenomena. When light is transmitted through a layer of magneto-optic material, the result is called the Faraday effect: the plane of polarization can be rotated, forming a Faraday rotator. The results of reflection from a magneto-optic material are known as the magneto-optic Kerr effect.

Birefringence Optical phenomenon

Birefringence is the optical property of a material having a refractive index that depends on the polarization and propagation direction of light. These optically anisotropic materials are said to be birefringent. The birefringence is often quantified as the maximum difference between refractive indices exhibited by the material. Crystals with non-cubic crystal structures are often birefringent, as are plastics under mechanical stress.

Hamiltonian mechanics is a theory developed as a reformulation of classical mechanics and predicts the same outcomes as non-Hamiltonian classical mechanics. It uses a different mathematical formalism, providing a more abstract understanding of the theory. Historically, it was an important reformulation of classical mechanics, which later contributed to the formulation of statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics.

In mathematics, Lie algebroids serve the same role in the theory of Lie groupoids that Lie algebras serve in the theory of Lie groups: reducing global problems to infinitesimal ones.


In neuroscience, tractography is a 3D modeling technique used to visually represent nerve tracts using data collected by diffusion MRI. It uses special techniques of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer-based diffusion MRI. The results are presented in two- and three-dimensional images called tractograms.

Polarizability is the ability to form instantaneous dipoles. It is a property of matter. Polarizabilities determine the dynamical response of a bound system to external fields, and provide insight into a molecule's internal structure. In a solid, polarizability is defined as dipole moment per unit volume of the crystal cell.

Transverse isotropy

A transversely isotropic material is one with physical properties that are symmetric about an axis that is normal to a plane of isotropy. This transverse plane has infinite planes of symmetry and thus, within this plane, the material properties are the same in all directions. Hence, such materials are also known as "polar anisotropic" materials.

Blowing up in algebraic geometry, a transformation on an algebraic variety or scheme, wherein a closed subvariety is replaced with the space of lines passing through it (in the case of a point, a projective space), commonly used to resolve singularities

In mathematics, blowing up or blowup is a type of geometric transformation which replaces a subspace of a given space with all the directions pointing out of that subspace. For example, the blowup of a point in a plane replaces the point with the projectivized tangent space at that point. The metaphor is that of zooming in on a photograph to enlarge part of the picture, rather than referring to an explosion.

Diffusion MRI magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method

Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging is the use of specific MRI sequences as well as software that generates images from the resulting data that uses the diffusion of water molecules to generate contrast in MR images. It allows the mapping of the diffusion process of molecules, mainly water, in biological tissues, in vivo and non-invasively. Molecular diffusion in tissues is not free, but reflects interactions with many obstacles, such as macromolecules, fibers, and membranes. Water molecule diffusion patterns can therefore reveal microscopic details about tissue architecture, either normal or in a diseased state. A special kind of DWI, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), has been used extensively to map white matter tractography in the brain.

Seismic anisotropy is a term used in seismology to describe the directional dependence of the velocity of seismic waves in a medium (rock) within the Earth.

In mathematics, and in particular the study of dynamical systems, the idea of stable and unstable sets or stable and unstable manifolds give a formal mathematical definition to the general notions embodied in the idea of an attractor or repellor. In the case of hyperbolic dynamics, the corresponding notion is that of the hyperbolic set.

In the field of mathematics known as differential geometry, a generalized complex structure is a property of a differential manifold that includes as special cases a complex structure and a symplectic structure. Generalized complex structures were introduced by Nigel Hitchin in 2002 and further developed by his students Marco Gualtieri and Gil Cavalcanti.

Etching (microfabrication) technique in microfabrication

Etching is used in microfabrication to chemically remove layers from the surface of a wafer during manufacturing. Etching is a critically important process module, and every wafer undergoes many etching steps before it is complete.

In condensed matter physics, magnetic anisotropy describes how an object's magnetic properties can be different depending on direction. In the simplest case, there is no preferential direction for an object's magnetic moment. It will respond to an applied magnetic field in the same way, regardless of which direction the field is applied. This is known as magnetic isotropy. In contrast, magnetically anisotropic materials will be easier or harder to magnetize depending on which way the object is rotated. For most magnetically anisotropic materials, there are two easiest directions to magnetize the material, which are a 180° rotation apart. The line parallel to these directions is called the easy axis. In other words, the easy axis is an energetically favorable direction of spontaneous magnetization. Because the two opposite directions along an easy axis are usually equivalently easy to magnetize along, and the actual direction of magnetization can just as easily settle into either direction, which is an example of spontaneous symmetry breaking.

In physics, engineering and materials science, bi-isotropic materials have the special optical property that they can rotate the polarization of light in either refraction or transmission. This does not mean all materials with twist effect fall in the bi-isotropic class. The twist effect of the class of bi-isotropic materials is caused by the chirality and non-reciprocity of the structure of the media, in which the electric and magnetic field of an electromagnetic wave interact in an unusual way.

Shear wave splitting

Shear wave splitting, also called seismic birefringence, is the phenomenon that occurs when a polarized shear wave enters an anisotropic medium. The incident shear wave splits into two polarized shear waves. Shear wave splitting is typically used as a tool for testing the anisotropy of an area of interest. These measurements reflect the degree of anisotropy and lead to a better understanding of the area's crack density and orientation or crystal alignment. We can think of the anisotropy of a particular area as a black box and the shear wave splitting measurements as a way of looking at what is in the box.

In condensed matter physics and continuum mechanics, an isotropic solid refers to a solid material for which physical properties are independent of the orientation of the system. While the finite sizes of atoms and bonding considerations ensure that true isotropy of atomic position will not exist in the solid state, it is possible for measurements of a given property to yield isotropic results, either due to the symmetries present within a crystal system, or due to the effects of orientational averaging over a sample. Isotropic solids tend to be of interest when developing models for physical behavior of materials, as they tend to allow for dramatic simplifications of theory; for example, conductivity in metals of the cubic crystal system can be described with single scalar value, rather than a tensor. Additionally, cubic crystals are isotropic with respect to thermal expansion and will expand equally in all directions when heated.

The optical properties of a material define how it interacts with light. The optical properties of matter are studied in optical physics, a subfield of optics. The optical properties of matter include:


  1. A groupoid is a category where all morphisms are isomorphisms, i.e., invertible. If is any object, then denotes its isotropy group: the group of isomorphisms from to .
  2. 1 2 "WMAP Big Bang Theory". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  3. "Anisotropy and Isotropy".
  4. Landman L. “The Epidermal Permeability Barrier.” Anatomy and Embryology (Berl) 1988; 178:1-13
  5. Gregoriadis G. “Lipsomes in Drug Delivery.” Harwood Academic Publishers, 1993;