The internal angle of the hexagon is 120 degrees so three hexagons at a point make a full 360 degrees. It is one of three regular tilings of the plane. The other two are the triangular tiling and the square tiling.
The hexagonal tiling is the densest way to arrange circles in two dimensions. The Honeycomb conjecture states that the hexagonal tiling is the best way to divide a surface into regions of equal area with the least total perimeter. The optimal three-dimensional structure for making honeycomb (or rather, soap bubbles) was investigated by Lord Kelvin, who believed that the Kelvin structure (or body-centered cubic lattice) is optimal. However, the less regular Weaire–Phelan structure is slightly better.
This structure exists naturally in the form of graphite, where each sheet of graphene resembles chicken wire, with strong covalent carbon bonds. Tubular graphene sheets have been synthesised; these are known as carbon nanotubes. They have many potential applications, due to their high tensile strength and electrical properties. Silicene is similar.
Chicken wire consists of a hexagonal lattice (often not regular) of wires.
The hexagonal tiling appears in many crystals. In three dimensions, the face-centered cubic and hexagonal close packing are common crystal structures. They are the densest known sphere packings in three dimensions, and are believed to be optimal. Structurally, they comprise parallel layers of hexagonal tilings, similar to the structure of graphite. They differ in the way that the layers are staggered from each other, with the face-centered cubic being the more regular of the two. Pure copper, amongst other materials, forms a face-centered cubic lattice.
The 3-color tiling is a tessellation generated by the order-3 permutohedrons.
A chamferred hexagonal tiling replacing edges with new hexagons and transforms into another hexagonal tiling. In the limit, the original faces disappear, and the new hexagons degenerate into rhombi, and it becomes a rhombic tiling.
The hexagonal tiling can be considered an elongated rhombic tiling, where each vertex of the rhombic tiling is stretched into a new edge. This is similar to the relation of the rhombic dodecahedron and the rhombo-hexagonal dodecahedron tessellations in 3 dimensions.
It is also possible to subdivide the prototiles of certain hexagonal tilings by two, three, four or nine equal pentagons:
It is similarly related to the uniform truncated polyhedra with vertex figure n.6.6.
This tiling is also a part of a sequence of truncated rhombic polyhedra and tilings with [n,3] Coxeter group symmetry. The cube can be seen as a rhombic hexahedron where the rhombi are squares. The truncated forms have regular n-gons at the truncated vertices, and nonregular hexagonal faces.
Drawing the tiles colored as red on the original faces, yellow at the original vertices, and blue along the original edges, there are 8 forms, 7 which are topologically distinct. (The truncated triangular tiling is topologically identical to the hexagonal tiling.)
There are 3 types of monohedral convex hexagonal tilings. They are all isohedral. Each has parametric variations within a fixed symmetry. Type 2 contains glide reflections, and is 2-isohedral keeping chiral pairs distinct.
Other isohedrally-tiled topological hexagonal tilings are seen as quadrilaterals and pentagons that are not edge-to-edge, but interpreted as colinear adjacent edges:
The 2-uniform and 3-uniform tessellations have a rotational degree of freedom which distorts 2/3 of the hexagons, including a colinear case that can also be seen as a non-edge-to-edge tiling of hexagons and larger triangles.
It can also be distorted into a chiral 4-colored tri-directional weaved pattern, distorting some hexagons into parallelograms. The weaved pattern with 2 colored faces have rotational 632 (p6) symmetry. A chevron pattern has pmg (22*) symmetry, which is lowered to p1 (°) with 3 or 4 colored tiles.
The hexagonal tiling can be used as a circle packing, placing equal diameter circles at the center of every point. Every circle is in contact with 3 other circles in the packing (kissing number). The gap inside each hexagon allows for one circle, creating the densest packing from the triangular tiling, with each circle contact with the maximum of 6 circles.
The first is made of 2-edges, three around every vertex, second has hexagonal edges, three around every vertex. A third complex apeirogon, sharing the same vertices, is quasiregular, which alternates 2-edges and 6-edges.