# Method of Separation of Variables

## Abstract

The method of separation of variables combined with the principle of superposition is widely used to solve initial boundary-value problems involving linear partial differential equations. Usually, the dependent variable *u* (*x, y*) is expressed in the separable form *u* (*x, y*) = *X* (*x*) *Y* (*y*), where *X* and *Y* are functions of *x* and *y* respectively. In many cases, the partial differential equation reduces to two ordinary differential equations for *X* and *Y*. A similar treatment can be applied to equations in three or more independent variables. However, the question of separability of a partial differential equation into two or more ordinary differential equations is by no means a trivial one. In spite of this question, the method is widely used in finding solutions of a large class of initial boundary-value problems. This method of solution is also known as the *Fourier method* (or *the method of eigenfunction expansion*). Thus, the procedure outlined above leads to the important ideas of eigenvalues, eigenfunctions, and orthogonality, all of which are very general and powerful for dealing with linear problems. The following examples illustrate the general nature of this method of solution.

## Keywords

Nontrivial Solution Transverse Vibration Heat Conduction Problem Telegraph Equation Initial Temperature Distribution## Preview

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