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Advanced Structural and Chemical Images

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Scanning tunneling microscopy, Scanning probe microscopy, Crystallography


Three different algorithms, as implemented in three different computer programs, were put to the task of extracting direct space lattice parameters from four sets of synthetic images that were per design more or less periodic in two dimensions (2D). One of the test images in each set was per design free of noise and, therefore, genuinely 2D periodic so that it adhered perfectly to the constraints of a Bravais lattice type, Laue class, and plane symmetry group. Gaussian noise with a mean of zero and standard deviations of 10 and 50% of the maximal pixel intensity was added to the individual pixels of the noise-free images individually to create two more images and thereby complete the sets. The added noise broke the strict translation and site/point symmetries of the noise-free images of the four test sets so that all symmetries that existed per design turned into pseudo-symmetries of the second kind. Moreover, motif and translation-based pseudo-symmetries of the first kind, a.k.a. genuine pseudo-symmetries, and a metric specialization were present per design in the majority of the noise-free test images already. With the extraction of the lattice parameters from the images of the synthetic test sets, we assessed the robustness of the algorithms’ performances in the presence of both Gaussian noise and pre-designed pseudo-symmetries. By applying three different computer programs to the same image sets, we also tested the reliability of the programs with respect to subsequent geometric inferences such as Bravais lattice type assignments. Partly due to per design existing pseudo-symmetries of the first kind, the lattice parameters that the utilized computer programs extracted in their default settings disagreed for some of the test images even in the absence of noise, i.e., in the absence of pseudo-symmetries of the second kind, for any reasonable error estimates. For the noisy images, the disagreement of the lattice parameter extraction results from the algorithms was typically more pronounced. Non-default settings and re-interpretations/re-calculations on the basis of program outputs allowed for a reduction (but not a complete elimination) of the differences in the geometric feature extraction results of the three tested algorithms. Our lattice parameter extraction results are, thus, an illustration of Kenichi Kanatani’s dictum that no extraction algorithm for geometric features from images leads to definitive results because they are all aiming at an intrinsically impossible task in all real-world applications (Kanatani in Syst Comput Jpn 35:1–9, 2004). Since 2D-Bravais lattice type assignments are the natural end result of lattice parameter extractions from more or less 2D-periodic images, there is also a section in this paper that describes the intertwined metric relations/ holohedral plane and point group symmetry hierarchy of the five translation symmetry types of the Euclidean plane. Because there is no definitive lattice parameter extraction algorithm, the outputs of computer programs that implemented such algorithms are also not definitive. Definitive assignments of higher symmetric Bravais lattice types to real-world images should, therefore, not be made on the basis of the numerical values of extracted lattice parameters and their error bars. Such assignments require (at the current state of affairs) arbitrarily set thresholds and are, therefore, always subjective so that they cannot claim objective definitiveness. This is the essence of Kenichi Kanatani’s comments on the vast majority of computerized attempts to extract symmetries and other hierarchical geometric.


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