Boundary value problem, complex-variable methods

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Methods for studying boundary value problems for partial differential equations in which one uses representations of solutions in terms of analytic functions of a complex variable.

Given a second-order elliptic equation


where are analytic functions of the real variables in some domain of the -plane, , consider the following boundary value problem: Find a solution of equation (1), regular in a simply-connected domain , satisfying the boundary condition


where , and the are linear operators mapping into , with completely continuous.

This problem includes as special cases the well-known classical boundary value problems of Dirichlet, Neumann, Poincaré, etc.

Using the formula for the general representation of solutions (see Differential equation, partial, complex-variable methods),

one reduces the problem to an equivalent boundary value problem for analytic functions:


where are given Hölder-continuous functions, , is a completely-continuous operator, and the are linear operators.

Suppose that the finite simply-connected domain is bounded by a closed Lyapunov contour (see Lyapunov surfaces and curves) and that the -th derivative, , of the function (the latter is holomorphic in ), restricted to , is a function of class , . Then, assuming that the point is in , one can express as follows:

where is a real function of class , , and is a real constant; and are uniquely determined by .

Substituting these expressions into the boundary condition (3), one obtains a singular integral equation, equivalent to problem (2), for the unknown function :

, where is a completely-continuous operator.

A necessary and sufficient condition for the boundary value problem (2) to be normally solvable is that


The Dirichlet problem () is always normally solvable. (Henceforth it is assumed throughout that condition (4) is satisfied.)

The index of the boundary value problem (2) is computed from the formula

where is the increment of the function when the contour is described once in the positive sense. The index of the Dirichlet problem is zero.

The homogeneous boundary value problem has a finite number of linearly independent solutions, where ; the inhomogeneous problem (2) has a solution if and only if

where is a complete system of linearly independent solutions of the associated homogeneous integral equation

The boundary value problem (2) has a solution, whatever the free term on the right, if and only if there exist exactly linearly independent solutions of the associated homogeneous problem . Consequently, if the homogeneous boundary value problem always has at least linearly independent solutions; if the inhomogeneous problem (2) is not solvable for an arbitrary free term on the right, but at least solvability conditions must be satisfied.

Necessary and sufficient conditions for the solvability of an inhomogeneous boundary value problem may be formulated in terms of the completeness of a certain system of functions. The kernel and system of functions may be constructed explicitly using the Riemann function of equation (1) and the coefficients of the boundary conditions. For example, let be some complete system of solutions in the basic domain of equation (1), and let . Then a necessary and sufficient condition for problem (2) to be solvable for any free right-hand side is that the system of functions be complete on the boundary.

Very complete results have been obtained for the following boundary value problem (the generalized Riemann–Hilbert problem): Find a solution of the equation


which is continuous in and satisfies the boundary condition


where are real functions of class , , with . The domain may be multiply connected. A problem of this type may be reduced to an equivalent singular integral equation; this yields a full qualitative analysis of the boundary value problem (6).

Suppose that the boundary of is the union of a finite number of simple closed curves satisfying the Lyapunov conditions. Since the forms of the equation and the boundary condition are preserved under conformal mapping, it may be assumed without loss of generality that is the unit circle with centre at , the latter being a point of , while are circles lying outside .

The index of problem (6) is defined as the integer equal to the increment of when the point describes once in the positive sense. The boundary condition can be reduced to the simpler form

where on , with , while are real constants, uniquely expressible in terms of and . The index of the adjoint problem


is calculated by the formula .

Problem (6) has a solution if and only if

where is an arbitrary solution of the adjoint problem.

Let and be the numbers of linearly independent solutions of the homogeneous problems (6) and (7), respectively. Then

If , the homogeneous problem (6) has no non-trivial solutions. If , it has exactly linearly independent solutions, while the inhomogeneous problem (6) is always solvable. If , the inhomogeneous problem (6) is solvable if and only if

where is a complete system of solutions of the homogeneous problem (7). If and , then and all solutions of the homogeneous problem problem (6) are given by

where is a real constant and a continuous function on .

The above results completely characterize the problem in the simply-connected () and multiply-connected (, ) cases. The cases require special examination; they have also been worked out in considerable detail.

Boundary value problems of the type of the Poincaré problem have also been studied for equation (5).

For references see Differential equation, partial, complex-variable methods.



[a1] I.N. Vekua, "Generalized analytic functions" , Pergamon (1962) (Translated from Russian)
[a2] N.P. Vekua, "Systems of singular integral equations and some boundary value problems" , Moscow (1970) (In Russian)
[a3] I.N. Vekua, "New methods for solving elliptic equations" , North-Holland (1968) (Translated from Russian)
How to Cite This Entry:
Boundary value problem, complex-variable methods. I.N. Vekua (originator), Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:,_complex-variable_methods&oldid=17473
This text originally appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098