Discrete derivatives of vector fields on surfaces - An operator approach

Omri Azencot, Maks Ovsjanikov, Frédéric Chazal, Mirela Ben-Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Vector fields on surfaces are fundamental in various applications in computer graphics and geometry processing. In many cases, in addition to representing vector fields, the need arises to compute their derivatives, for example, for solving partial differential equations on surfaces or for designing vector fields with prescribed smoothness properties. In this work, we consider the problem of computing the Levi-Civita covariant derivative, that is, the tangential component of the standard directional derivative, on triangle meshes. This problem is challenging since, formally, tangent vector fields on polygonal meshes are often viewed as being discontinuous, hence it is not obvious what a good derivative formulation would be. We leverage the relationship between the Levi-Civita covariant derivative of a vector field and the directional derivative of its component functions to provide a simple, easy-to-implement discretization for which we demonstrate experimental convergence. In addition, we introduce two linear operators which provide access to additional constructs in Riemannian geometry that are not easy to discretize otherwise, including the parallel transport operator which can be seen simply as a certain matrix exponential. Finally, we show the applicability of our operator to various tasks, such as fluid simulation on curved surfaces and vector field design, by posing algebraic constraints on the covariant derivative operator.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationACM Transactions on Graphics
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
ISBN (Electronic)9781450333313
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrete differential geometry
  • Geometry processing
  • Vector field analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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