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# 106 CHAPTER 3.

## 3.7 Wronskians and Variation of Parameters

In this section, we will need the concept of the Wronskian defined below:

## 3.7.1 The Wronskian

Wronskian of 2 functions
Define the Wronskian of two differentiable functions f (t) and g(t) to be

f (t) g(t)
W [f, g](t) = 0
= f (t)g 0 (t) g(t)f 0 (t)
f (t) g 0 (t)

## Example 3.27 Compute the Wronksian of f (t) = t2 and g(t) = sin(6t)

Solution:

f (t) g(t)
W [f, g](t) = 0 = f (t)g 0 (t) g(t)f 0 (t),
f (t) g 0 (t)
so 2
2
t sin(6t)
W [t , sin(6t)] =
2t 6 cos(6t)
= 6t2 cos(6t) 2t sin(6t).

Example 3.28 Compute the Wronksian of f (t) = t and g(t) = e2t

Solution:

f (t) g(t)
W [f, g](t) = 0 = f (t)g 0 (t) g(t)f 0 (t),
f (t) g 0 (t)
so
2t

t e2t
W [ t, e ] = 1
2 t
2e2t
1
= 2 te2t e2t .
2 t
Notice that the Wronskian of two functions is again a new function whose
domain depends upon the domains of f and g and their derivatives as illus-
trated in the previous example. There are some properties of the Wronskian,
which are straightforward to verify.
3.7. WRONSKIANS AND VARIATION OF PARAMETERS 107

1. W [0, g(t)] = 0

2. W [f (t), f (t)] = 0

## 7. W [f (t), g(t)] = W [g(t), f (t)]

The last property tells us that the order of the functions in the Wronskian
is important.

## 3.7.2 Variation of Parameters

Suppose that
y 00 (t) + a(t)y 0 (t) + b(t)y(t) = F (t)

is a second order linear ODE and that c1 y1 (t) + c2 y2 (t) is a general solution
to the associated homogeneous DE. Then
108 CHAPTER 3. SECOND ORDER ODE

Variation of Parameters
Suppose that
y 00 (t) + a(t)y 0 (t) + b(t)y(t) = F (t)
is a second order linear ODE and that c1 y1 (t) + c2 y2 (t) is a general solution
to the associated homogeneous DE.
Then
yP (t) = v1 (t)y1 (t) + v2 (t)y2 (t)
is a particular solution to the nonhomogeneous DE, where

F (t)y2 (t)
Z
v1 (t) = dt
W [y1 , y2 ]
F (t)y1 (t)
Z
v2 (t) = dt
W [y1 , y2 ]
(As usual, the antiderivatives in the formulas for v1 , v2 denote any one an-
tiderivative.)

## Example 3.29 Find a solution to the nonhomogeneous DE

y 00 + 4y = sec(2t)

## so y1 = cos(2t) and y2 = sin(2t).

Next, note that

cos(2t) sin(2t)
W [y1 , y2 ] = W [cos(2t), sin(2t)] =
2 sin(2t) 2 cos(2t)

## = 2 cos2 (2t) + 2 sin2 (2t) = 2.

So
sec(2t) sin(2t) tan(2t) 1
Z Z
v1 (t) = dt = dt = ln | sin(2t)|
2 2 4
and
sec(2t) cos(2t) 1 1
Z Z
v2 (t) = dt = dt = t
2 2 2
3.7. WRONSKIANS AND VARIATION OF PARAMETERS 109

## Thus yP (t) = v1 y1 + v2 y2 = 14 ln | sin(2t)| cos(2t) + 21 t sin(2t) solves the

nonhomogenous DE.
Note that the general solution to the DE (by the Superposition Principle)
is y(t) = 14 ln | sin(2t)| cos(2t) + 12 t sin(2t) + c1 cos(2t) + c2 sin(2t).

The next example illustrates that this method works even when the coef-
ficients are not all constant (unlike the method of undetermined coefficients).
Note in the example that the DE needs to be put into standard form before
we can use the formula.

## Example 3.30 Find a solution to the nonhomogeneous DE

3
t2 y 00 2y = , t 6= 0
t
given that y = (t)c1 t2 + c2 1t solves

t2 y 00 2y = 0

## Solution: Note that the general solution to the homogeneous DE is

1
yhomo (t) = c1 t2 + c2 ,
t
so y1 = t2 and y2 = 1t . Further note that in standard form, the DE becomes
2 3
y 00 y = 3 , t 6= 0
t2 t
Next, note that
2 1

1 2
t
W [y1 , y2 ] = W [t , ] = t
t 2t t12

= 1 2 = 3.
So
3
1 11
Z Z
t4
v1 (t) = dt = dt = 3
3 t4 3t
and
3 2
t 1
Z Z
t3
v2 (t) = dt = dt = ln |t|
3 t
110 CHAPTER 3. SECOND ORDER ODE

## Thus yP (t) = v1 y1 +v2 y2 = 3t13 t2 lnt|t| solves the nonhomogenous DE.

As one might guess, the previous examples were chosen very carefully so
that the antiderivatives could be computed in closed form. At first, it might
seem that this method allows us only to solve a small set of problems, in
particular, problems where the antiderivatives in the formula are computable.
However, this method becomes extremely powerful and versatile
Rt if we recall
that the antiderivatives of G(t) are simply obtained by t0 G(w) dw, where
(t0 , t) is in the domain of G. Hence, the variation of parameters method
allows us to obtain a particular solution even when the antiderivatives do
not work out nicely. The tradeoff is that one may need to approximate a
definite integral to evaluate a solution as in the next example.

## Solution: As in the previous example, the general solution to the homoge-

neous DE is
yhomo (t) = c1 cos(2t) + c2 sin(2t),
so y1 = cos(2t) and y2 = sin(2t) and

cos(2t) sin(2t)
W [y1 , y2 ] = W [cos(2t), sin(2t)] =
2 sin(2t) 2 cos(2t)

## = 2 cos2 (2t) + 2 sin2 (2t) = 2.

So
t
ln(t) sin(2t) 1
Z Z
v1 (t) = dt = ln(w + 1) sin(2w) dw
2 2 0

and t
ln(t) cos(2t) 1
Z Z
v2 (t) = dt = ln(w + 1) cos(2w) dw
2 2 0

## (we take t0 = 0).

3.7. WRONSKIANS AND VARIATION OF PARAMETERS 111

## y(t) = c1 cos(2t) + c2 sin(2t)

Z t Z t
1 1
cos(2t) ln(w + 1) sin(2w) dw +sin(2t) ln(w + 1) cos(2w) dw
2 0 2 0
Since y(0) = 0 we have
Z 0
1
0 = c1 ln(w + 1) sin(2w) dw
2 0
so c1 = 0
Using the product rule and the second fundamental theorem of calculus,

0 1
y (t) = 2c2 cos(2t) cos(2t) ln(t + 1) sin(2t)
2
Z t Z t
1 1
+2 sin(2t) ln(w + 1) sin(2w) dw +2 cos(2t) ln(w + 1) cos(2w) dw
2 0 2 0

1
+ sin(2t) ln(t + 1) cos(2t)
2

## Plugging in t = 0 yields 1 = 2c2 so c2 = 21 .

So the particular solution we seek is
Z t Z t
1 1 1
y(t) = sin(2t)cos(2t) ln(w + 1) sin(2w) dw +sin(2t) ln(w + 1) cos(2w) dw
2 2 0 2 0
Z 2
1 1
y(2) = sin(4) cos(4) ln(w + 1) sin(2w) dw
2 2 0
Z 2
1
+ sin(4) ln(w + 1) cos(2w) dw .0014974951
2 0
Above, we obtained an approximation of y(2) by approximating the def-
inite integrals (you could approximate the integrals Simpsons method, the
Trapezoidal method., Upper/Lower sums, or simply a calculator that can
approximate definite integrals).
112 CHAPTER 3. SECOND ORDER ODE

Exercises

## Use the variation of parameters method to find a particular solution to

the DE

1. y 00 + 3y 0 + 2y = 4et

2. y 00 + 3y 0 + 2y = t

3. y 00 + y = tan t

4. y 00 + y = csc t

5. y 00 + 4y = sin(2t) cos(2t)

## Use the variation of parameters method to find a general solution to

the DE

6. y 00 + 9y = cot(3t)

7. y 00 + y = csc t

8. y 00 + 4y = sin(2t) cos(2t)

## 9. t2 y 00 6y = t4 given that y(t) = c1 t3 + c2 t12 solve the homogeneous DE.

(Hint: Put the DE in standard form first!)

## Use the variation of parameters method to approximate the particular

value solution to the ODE/IVP, you will need to approximate some
definite integrals

10. y 00 + 4y 0 + 3y = t, y(1) = 1, y 0 (1) = 2