Dense packings of 3k(k+1)+1 equal disks in a circle for k = 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

  • B. D. Lubachevsky
  • R. L. Graham
Session 5B: Combinatorial Designs
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 959)


For each k≥1 and corresponding hexagonal number h(k)=3k(k+1)+1, we introduce m(k)=(k−1)! packings of h(k) equal disks inside a circle which we call the curved hexagonal packings. The curved hexagonal packing of 7 disks (k=1, m(1)=1) is well known and the one of 19 disks (k=2, m(2)=1) has been previously conjectured to be optimal. New curved hexagonal packings of 37, 61, and 91 disks (k=3, 4, and 5, m(3) = 2, m(4)=6, and m(5)=24) were the densest we obtained on a computer using a so-called “billiards” simulation algorithm. A curved hexagonal packing pattern is invariant under a 60° rotation. When k≥3, the curved hexagonal packings are not mirror symmetric but they occur in m(k)/2 image-reflection pairs. For k→∞, the density (covering fraction) of curved hexagonal packings tends to π2/12. The limit is smaller than the density of the known optimum disk packing in the infinite plane. We present packings that are better than curved hexagonal packings for 127, 169, and 217 disks (k=6, 7, and 8).

In addition to new packings for h(k) disks, we present new packings we found for h(k)+1 and h(k)−1 disks for k up to 5, i.e., for 36, 38, 60, 62, 90, and 92 disks. The additional packings show the “tightness” of the curved hexagonal pattern for k ≲- 5: deleting a disk does not change the optimum packing and its quality significantly, but adding a disk causes a substantial rearrangement in the optimum packing and substantially decreases the quality.


Dense Packing Equilateral Triangle Central Disk Covering Fraction Optimum Packing 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. D. Lubachevsky
    • 1
  • R. L. Graham
    • 1
  1. 1.AT&T Bell LaboratoriesMurray HillUSA

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