In mathematical complex analysis, a quasiconformal mapping, introduced by Grötzsch (1928) and named by Ahlfors (1935), is a homeomorphism between plane domains which to first order takes small circles to small ellipses of bounded eccentricity.
Intuitively, let f : D → D′ be an orientation-preserving homeomorphism between open sets in the plane. If f is continuously differentiable, then it is K-quasiconformal if the derivative of f at every point maps circles to ellipses with eccentricity bounded by K.
Suppose f : D → D′ where D and D′ are two domains in C. There are a variety of equivalent definitions, depending on the required smoothness of f. If f is assumed to have continuous partial derivatives, then f is quasiconformal provided it satisfies the Beltrami equation
where Ω(z) > 0. Then f satisfies (1) precisely when it is a conformal transformation from D equipped with this metric to the domain D′ equipped with the standard Euclidean metric. The function f is then called μ-conformal. More generally, the continuous differentiability of f can be replaced by the weaker condition that f be in the Sobolev space W1,2(D) of functions whose first-order distributional derivatives are in L2(D). In this case, f is required to be a weak solution of (1). When μ is zero almost everywhere, any homeomorphism in W1,2(D) that is a weak solution of (1) is conformal.
Without appeal to an auxiliary metric, consider the effect of the pullback under f of the usual Euclidean metric. The resulting metric is then given by
The eigenvalues represent, respectively, the squared length of the major and minor axis of the ellipse obtained by pulling back along f the unit circle in the tangent plane.
If K > 1 then the maps x + iy ↦ Kx + iy and x + iy ↦ x + iKy are both quasiconformal and have constant dilatation K.
A homeomorphism is 1-quasiconformal if and only if it is conformal. Hence the identity map is always 1-quasiconformal. If f : D → D′ is K-quasiconformal and g : D′ → D′′ is K′-quasiconformal, then g o f is KK′-quasiconformal. The inverse of a K-quasiconformal homeomorphism is K-quasiconformal. The set of 1-quasiconformal maps forms a group under composition.
The space of K-quasiconformal mappings from the complex plane to itself mapping three distinct points to three given points is compact.
Recently, quasi-conformal geometry has attracted attention from different fields, such as applied mathematics, computer vision and medical imaging. Computational quasi-conformal geometry has been developed, which extends the quasi-conformal theory into a discrete setting. It has found various important applications in medical image analysis, computer vision and graphics.