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The Computing for Science (CS) group supports ILL scientists, students and visitors in a number of activities including data analysis, instrument simulation and sample simulation.

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All Software

Program Deform

Principal values and directions of a deformation tensor
from a set of unit cell parameters

(e.g. thermal expansion, compressibility, compositional deformation, ...)
by A.Filhol, J. Lajzerowicz and M. Thomas


The deformation U of unit cell of a crystalline material under a constraint C is described by a symmetrical second-rank tensor. The constraint can be temperature T, pressure P, composition x, etc., as shown in the non-exhaustive list below:

Isobaric thermal expansion (e.g. see [3])
Isothermal compressibility (e.g. see [2])

Compositional deformation in an alloy [A1-xBx]  (e.g. see[4])
- Swelling of a monomer single crystal as function of the polymerization rate [5]
- Cell deformation of a protein crystal as a function of water content

With "l" a dimension in the material.

Principal values and directions of U as a function of C are of interest since they tell us about chemical 'repulsive' interactions in the structure.
When the unit cell is cubic, othorhombic, hexagonal, ..., the principal values (d1,d2,d3) and directions of U are trivial. For low symmetry cells (triclinic, monoclinic) this is less straighforward and a program such as DEFORM is necessary.

The coefficients of the tensor of deformation U can be obtained from the unit-cell parameters (three lengths  and three angles  with i=1 to 3) and their derivatives [1,4]:

These derivatives can be obtained from a set of unit cell parameters as a function of the constraint C. DEFORM performs a polynomial fit for each of the cell parameters not imposed by symmetry. From these polynomials it is straightforward to get both cell parameters and derivatives as a function of C. Then principal values and directions are computed using the above equations.
- Note 1: A polynomial fit is often sufficient but this may not be true in the vicinity of a phase transition. The parameter divergence being exponential then a more appropriate fit function must be used.
- Note 2: It is wise not to use polynomial degrees higher than two. More complex curve shapes are generally a clue to there being a phase transition.  

The method implemented in DEFORM is simple and offers an internal coherence check through the extra fit of the variation of the measured cell volume. This "observed" curve is compared to the "calculated" curve, i.e. the curve of cell volumes computed from the fitted cell parameters. Any significative discrepancy between the two indicates that one or more of cell-parameter fit is not correct. Again, this is often the clue of a phase transition or of its vicinity.

Thermal expansion of TEA.(TCNQ)2  [3]

DEFORM is a old program (1987) to which I will hopefully offer a multiplatform GUI some day !

The original VAX FORTRAN code can be downloaded HERE.    [not yet available]


1- A. Filhol (1985) "Evolution comparée en fonction de la température ou de la pression des propriétés physiques et structurales de conducteurs organiques unidimensionnels", PhD, Univ. Bordeaux I, 26 April 1985, nº 835.
2- Room- and high-pressure neutron structure determination of TTF-TCNQ.Thermal expansion and isothermal compressibility
  Filhol A., Bravic G., Gaultier J., Chasseau D. and Vettier C. (1981) Acta Crystallographica B 37, 1225-1236.
3- Structural evolution of the one-dimensional organic conductor triethylammonium-7,7,8,8-tetracyano-p-quinodimethane (1:2) [TEA-(TCNQ)2] in the temperature range 40 to 345 K.
  Filhol A. and Thomas M. (1984) Acta Crystallographica B 40, 44-59.
4- The tensor of compositional deformation. A new crystallographic way to analyse syncrystallization
  Chanh N.B., Clastre J., Gaultier J., Haget Y., Meresse A., Lajzerowicz J., Filhol A. and Thomas M. (1988) Journal of Applied Crystallography 21, 10-14.
5- Aimé J.-P. (1983) PhD, Univ. of Paris VII, France.

Copyright 2008, Institut Laue-Langevin

Last update: 3 Oct 2008, A. Filhol <filhol(at)>

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