is a uniformly elliptic operator. The Laplace operator occurs frequently in electrostatics. If ρ is the charge density within some region Ω, the potential Φ must satisfy the equation
Given a matrix-valued function A(x) which is symmetric and positive definite for every x, having components aij, the operator
is elliptic. This is the most general form of a second-order divergence form linear elliptic differential operator. The Laplace operator is obtained by taking A = I. These operators also occur in electrostatics in polarized media.
For p a non-negative number, the p-Laplacian is a nonlinear elliptic operator defined by
for some constant B. The velocity of an ice sheet in steady state will then solve the nonlinear elliptic system
where ρ is the ice density, g is the gravitational acceleration vector, p is the pressure and Q is a forcing term.
Elliptic regularity theoremEdit
Let L be an elliptic operator of order 2k with coefficients having 2k continuous derivatives. The Dirichlet problem for L is to find a function u, given a function f and some appropriate boundary values, such that Lu = f and such that u has the appropriate boundary values and normal derivatives. The existence theory for elliptic operators, using Gårding's inequality and the Lax–Milgram lemma, only guarantees that a weak solutionu exists in the Sobolev spaceHk.
This situation is ultimately unsatisfactory, as the weak solution u might not have enough derivatives for the expression Lu to be well-defined in the classical sense.
The elliptic regularity theorem guarantees that, provided f is square-integrable, u will in fact have 2k square-integrable weak derivatives. In particular, if f is infinitely-often differentiable, then so is u.
Any differential operator exhibiting this property is called a hypoelliptic operator; thus, every elliptic operator is hypoelliptic. The property also means that every fundamental solution of an elliptic operator is infinitely differentiable in any neighborhood not containing 0.
As an application, suppose a function satisfies the Cauchy–Riemann equations. Since the Cauchy-Riemann equations form an elliptic operator, it follows that is smooth.
Let be a (possibly nonlinear) differential operator between vector bundles of any rank. Take its principal symbol with respect to a one-form . (Basically, what we are doing is replacing the highest order covariant derivatives by vector fields .)
We say is weakly elliptic if is a linear isomorphism for every non-zero .
We say is (uniformly) strongly elliptic if for some constant ,
for all and all . It is important to note that the definition of ellipticity in the previous part of the article is strong ellipticity. Here is an inner product. Notice that the are covector fields or one-forms, but the are elements of the vector bundle upon which acts.
The quintessential example of a (strongly) elliptic operator is the Laplacian (or its negative, depending upon convention). It is not hard to see that needs to be of even order for strong ellipticity to even be an option. Otherwise, just consider plugging in both and its negative. On the other hand, a weakly elliptic first-order operator, such as the Dirac operator can square to become a strongly elliptic operator, such as the Laplacian. The composition of weakly elliptic operators is weakly elliptic.
^Note that this is sometimes called strict ellipticity, with uniform ellipticity being used to mean that an upper bound exists on the symbol of the operator as well. It is important to check the definitions the author is using, as conventions may differ. See, e.g., Evans, Chapter 6, for a use of the first definition, and Gilbarg and Trudinger, Chapter 3, for a use of the second.
Evans, L. C. (2010) , Partial differential equations, Graduate Studies in Mathematics, vol. 19 (2nd ed.), Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society, ISBN 978-0-8218-4974-3, MR 2597943 Review: Rauch, J. (2000). "Partial differential equations, by L. C. Evans" (pdf). Journal of the American Mathematical Society. 37 (3): 363–367. doi:10.1090/s0273-0979-00-00868-5.
Gilbarg, D.; Trudinger, N. S. (1983) , Elliptic partial differential equations of second order, Grundlehren der Mathematischen Wissenschaften, vol. 224 (2nd ed.), Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-540-13025-3, MR 0737190