Inserted: 11 dec 2014
Last Updated: 18 may 2015
We link covering spaces with the theory of functions of bounded variation, in order to study minimal networks in the plane and Plateau’s problem without fixing a priori the topology of solutions. We solve the minimization problem in the class of (possibly vector-valued) BV functions defined on a covering space of the complement of an (n − 2)-dimensional compact embedded Lipschitz man- ifold S without boundary. This approach has several similarities with Brakke’s “soap films” covering construction. The main novelty of our method stands in the presence of a suitable constraint on the fibers, which couples together the covering sheets. In the case of networks, the constraint is defined using a suitable subset of transpositions of m elements, m being the number of points of S. The model avoids all issues concerning the presence of the boundary S, which is automatically attained. The constraint is lifted in a natural way to Sobolev spaces, allowing also an approach based on Γ-convergence.