Concept

# Numerical methods for ordinary differential equations

Résumé
Numerical methods for ordinary differential equations are methods used to find numerical approximations to the solutions of ordinary differential equations (ODEs). Their use is also known as "numerical integration", although this term can also refer to the computation of integrals. Many differential equations cannot be solved exactly. For practical purposes, however – such as in engineering – a numeric approximation to the solution is often sufficient. The algorithms studied here can be used to compute such an approximation. An alternative method is to use techniques from calculus to obtain a series expansion of the solution. Ordinary differential equations occur in many scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, and economics. In addition, some methods in numerical partial differential equations convert the partial differential equation into an ordinary differential equation, which must then be solved. A first-order differential equation is an Initial value problem (IVP) of the form, where is a function , and the initial condition is a given vector. First-order means that only the first derivative of y appears in the equation, and higher derivatives are absent. Without loss of generality to higher-order systems, we restrict ourselves to first-order differential equations, because a higher-order ODE can be converted into a larger system of first-order equations by introducing extra variables. For example, the second-order equation y′′ = −y can be rewritten as two first-order equations: y′ = z and z′ = −y. In this section, we describe numerical methods for IVPs, and remark that boundary value problems (BVPs) require a different set of tools. In a BVP, one defines values, or components of the solution y at more than one point. Because of this, different methods need to be used to solve BVPs. For example, the shooting method (and its variants) or global methods like finite differences, Galerkin methods, or collocation methods are appropriate for that class of problems.
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