Summary
Nonlinear control theory is the area of control theory which deals with systems that are nonlinear, time-variant, or both. Control theory is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering and mathematics that is concerned with the behavior of dynamical systems with inputs, and how to modify the output by changes in the input using feedback, feedforward, or signal filtering. The system to be controlled is called the "plant". One way to make the output of a system follow a desired reference signal is to compare the output of the plant to the desired output, and provide feedback to the plant to modify the output to bring it closer to the desired output. Control theory is divided into two branches. Linear control theory applies to systems made of devices which obey the superposition principle. They are governed by linear differential equations. A major subclass is systems which in addition have parameters which do not change with time, called linear time invariant (LTI) systems. These systems can be solved by powerful frequency domain mathematical techniques of great generality, such as the Laplace transform, Fourier transform, Z transform, Bode plot, root locus, and Nyquist stability criterion. Nonlinear control theory covers a wider class of systems that do not obey the superposition principle. It applies to more real-world systems, because all real control systems are nonlinear. These systems are often governed by nonlinear differential equations. The mathematical techniques which have been developed to handle them are more rigorous and much less general, often applying only to narrow categories of systems. These include limit cycle theory, Poincaré maps, Lyapunov stability theory, and describing functions. If only solutions near a stable point are of interest, nonlinear systems can often be linearized by approximating them by a linear system obtained by expanding the nonlinear solution in a series, and then linear techniques can be used. Nonlinear systems are often analyzed using numerical methods on computers, for example by simulating their operation using a simulation language.
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