Publication Details

Wheeler, G. E. (2015). Gap phenomena for a class of fourth-order geometric differential operators on surfaces with boundary. Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, 143 (4), 1719-1737.


In this paper we establish a gap phenomenon for immersed surfaces with arbitrary codimension, topology and boundaries that satisfy one of a family of systems of fourth-order anisotropic geometric partial differential equations. Examples include Willmore surfaces, stationary solitons for the surface diffusion flow, and biharmonic immersed surfaces in the sense of Chen. On the boundary we enforce either umbilic or flat boundary conditions: that the tracefree second fundamental form and its derivative or the full second fundamental form and its derivative vanish. For the umbilic boundary condition we prove that any surface with small L2-norm of the tracefree second fundamental form or full second fundamental form must be totally umbilic, that is, a piece of a round sphere or flat plane. We prove that the stricter smallness condition allows consideration for a broader range of differential operators. For the flat boundary condition we prove the same result with weaker hypotheses, allowing more general operators, and a stronger conclusion: only a piece of a flat plane is allowed. The method used relies only on the smallness assumption and thus holds without requiring the imposition of additional symmetries. The result holds in the class of surfaces with any genus and irrespective of the number or shape of the boundaries.



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