In geometry, a prism is a polyhedron comprising an n-sided polygon base, a second base which is a translated copy (rigidly moved without rotation) of the first, and n other faces, necessarily all parallelograms, joining corresponding sides of the two bases. All cross-sections parallel to the bases are translations of the bases. Prisms are named after their bases; example: a prism with a pentagonal base is called a pentagonal prism. Prisms are a subclass of prismatoids.
Like many basic geometric terms, the word prism (Greek: πρίσμα, romanized: prisma, lit. 'something sawed') was first used in Euclid's Elements. Euclid defined the term in Book XI as “a solid figure contained by two opposite, equal and parallel planes, while the rest are parallelograms”. However, this definition has been criticized for not being specific enough in relation to the nature of the bases, which caused confusion among later geometry writers.
An oblique prism is a prism in which the joining edges and faces are not perpendicular to the base faces.
Note: some texts may apply the term rectangular prism or square prism to both a right rectangular-based prism and a right square-based prism.
The volume of a prism is the product of the area of the base and the distance between the two base faces, or the height (in the case of a non-right prism, note that this means the perpendicular distance).
where B is the base area and h is the height. The volume of a prism whose base is an n-sided regular polygon with side length s is therefore:
where B is the area of the base, h the height, and P the base perimeter.
The surface area of a right prism whose base is a regular n-sided polygon with side length s and height h is therefore:
The symmetry group of a right n-sided prism with regular base is Dnh of order 4n, except in the case of a cube, which has the larger symmetry group Oh of order 48, which has three versions of D4h as subgroups. The rotation group is Dn of order 2n, except in the case of a cube, which has the larger symmetry group O of order 24, which has three versions of D4 as subgroups.
The hosohedra and dihedra also possess dihedral symmetry, and an n-gonal prism can be constructed via the geometrical truncation of an n-gonal hosohedron, as well as through the cantellation or expansion of an n-gonal dihedron.
A twisted prism is a nonconvex polyhedron constructed from a uniform n-prism with each side face bisected on the square diagonal, by twisting the top, usually by π/n radians (180/n degrees) in the same direction, causing sides to be concave.
An n-gonal twisted prism is topologically identical to the n-gonal uniform antiprism, but has half the symmetry group: Dn, [n,2]+, order 2n. It can be seen as a nonconvex antiprism, with tetrahedra removed between pairs of triangles.
A crossed prism is a nonconvex polyhedron constructed from a prism, where the vertices of one base are inverted around the center of this base (or rotated by 180°). This transforms the side rectangular faces into crossed rectangles. For a regular polygon base, the appearance is an n-gonal hour glass. All oblique edges pass through a single body center. Note: no vertex is at this body centre. A crossed prism is topologically identical to an n-gonal prism.
A toroidal prism is a nonconvex polyhedron like a crossed prism, but without bottom and top base faces, and with simple rectangular side faces closing the polyhedron. This can only be done for even-sided base polygons. These are topological tori, with Euler characteristic of zero. The topological polyhedral net can be cut from two rows of a square tiling (with vertex configuration 18.104.22.168): a band of n squares, each attached to a crossed rectangle. An n-gonal toroidal prism has 2n vertices, 2n faces: n squares and n crossed rectangles, and 4n edges. It is topologically self-dual.
A prismatic polytope is a higher-dimensional generalization of a prism. An n-dimensional prismatic polytope is constructed from two (n − 1)-dimensional polytopes, translated into the next dimension.
The prismatic n-polytope elements are doubled from the (n − 1)-polytope elements and then creating new elements from the next lower element.
Take an n-polytope with fi i-face elements (i = 0, ..., n). Its (n + 1)-polytope prism will have 2fi + fi−1 i-face elements. (With f−1 = 0, fn = 1.)