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my Partial differential equations cheat sheet

Nasser M. Abbasi

May 28, 2020   Compiled on September 26, 2023 at 4:22pm


1 introduction
2 linear PDE’s
 2.1 Elliptic
 2.2 Parabolic
 2.3 Hyperbolic
3 hints
4 references

1 introduction

These are part of my study notes on PDE’s.

Trying to classify PDE’s, here is current diagram. It is very large, but it is meant to include a summary of many methods in one place. Easier to view in a browser than in the pdf.

Some diagrams I made







To derive the PDE, we start by setting up the state quantities and the flow quantities, and relate these to each others by the use of the constitutive law. Then substiting this into the local conservation law, lead to the PDE.

state quantity constitutive law flow quantity
density tension
tempreture velocity
pressure \(\Longleftrightarrow \) momentum
specific internal energy heat flux

2 linear PDE’s

2.1 Elliptic

Some properties

  1. Solution to the PDE represents steady state of \(u\).
  2. Only boundary conditions are used to solve. No initial conditions.
  3. Relation to complex analytic functions: If \(f(z)=\phi (x,y)+i\psi (x,y)\) is analytic, then \(\phi (x,y)\) and \(\psi (x,y)\) are solutions to Laplace pde’s
  4. Solutions to Laplace PDE are called harmonic functions.
  5. constitutive law: Either consider them as stationary process, or take the time dependent pde, and set those terms in that which depend on time to zero.

Examples of elliptic PDE’s

  1. Laplace \(u_{xx}=0\) or in general \(\nabla ^2 u=0\)
  2. Poisson \(u_{xx}=-f(x)\)
  3. Helmholtz in 1D \(u_{xx}+\lambda u(x) = -f(x)\)
  4. Helmholtz in 2D \(u_{xx}+ u_{yy} + \lambda u(x,y) = -f(x,y)\)

2.2 Parabolic

Some properties

  1. Diffusion. Material spread is one specific example of diffusion. Here the state variable is the concentration of the diffusing matrial. The flow quantity is its flux. The constitutive law is Fickś law.
  2. Heat spread. Here the state variable is the temprature, and the flow quantity is the heat flux. The constitutive law is Fourierś law.
  3. Stiff PDE, hence requires small time step, solved using implicit methods, not explicit for stability.
  4. Numerically, use Crank-Nicleson, in 2D, can use ADI.
  5. Requires initial and boundary conditions to solve.

Examples of parabolic PDE’s

  1. Diffusion. \(u_{t}-Du_{xx}=0\) where \(D\) is the diffusion constant, must be positive quantity. For heat PDE, \(D\) is the thermal diffusivity \(D=\kappa /{c_p\rho }\) where \(\kappa \) is thermal conductivity, \(c_p\) is specific heat capacity, \(\rho \) is density of medium.
  2. In higher spatial dimension \(u_{t}-D\nabla ^2 u=0\)
  3. Foller-Plank, Black-Sholes PDEs
  4. Diffusion-Reaction \(u_t-Du_{xx}=F(u(x,t))\) where \(F(u(x,t))\) is the reaction term, which can be stiff or not. Examples

    1. Fischer equation, nonlinear PDE for modeling population growth. \(u_t-Du_{xx}=r u(x,t) (1-\frac {u(x,t)}{K})\) where \(K\) is carrying capacity, and \(r\) is growth rate.

2.3 Hyperbolic

Some properties

  1. Advection PDE (or Transport or convection?). \(u_t+a u_x=0\), Transport or drift of conserved substance (pollutant) in Fluid or Gas where \(a\) is speed of fluid. Analytic solution is \(u(x,t)=f(x-at)\) where \(f(x)=u(x,0)\) is the initial conditions.
  2. The state variable is the concentration \(u\) of the contaminant, and the flow quantity is its flux \(\phi \). The constitutive law is \(\phi =cu\).
  3. Wave equation \(u_{tt}=c^2 u_{xx}\). Analytic solution is \(u(x,t)=\frac {1}{2} [f(x-ct)+f(x+ct)]+\frac {1}{2c} \int _{x-ct}^{x+ct} \! g(y) \, \mathrm {d}y\) where \(f(x)=u(x,0)\) and \(g(x)=u_t(x,0)\).


  1. Advection, Wave (See above)
  2. non-homogenouse advection and wave: \(u_t+a u_x=f(x,t)\) and \(u_{tt}=c^2 u_{xx}+f(x,t)\).
  3. Klein-Gordon \(u_{tt}=c^2 u_{xx}-bu\)
  4. Telegraphy \(u_{tt}+ku_t=c^2 u_{xx}+bu\)

3 hints


Characteristics are curves in the space of the independent variables along which the governing PDE has only total differentials

4 references

  1. Elements of partial differential Equations, Pavel Drabek and Gabriela Holubova, 2007.
  2. Applied partial differental equations. 4th edition, Richard Haberman
  3. http://www.phy.ornl.gov/csep/pde/node3.html
  4. http://www.me.metu.edu.tr/courses/me582/files/PDE_Introduction_by_Hoffman.pdf
  5. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Partial_Differential_Equations/Introduction_and_Classifications
  6. http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Partial_differential_equation
  7. http://how.gi.alaska.edu/ao/sim/chapters/chap3.pdf good discussion on classification via Characteristics lines
  8. http://gwu.geverstine.com/pde.pdf table on classification, diagram for discriminant sign