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Differential Equations and Nonlinear Mechanics
Volume 2008, Article ID 745242, 7 pages
Research Article

On Using Curvature to Demonstrate Stability

Department of Mathematics, Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Ave West, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3C5

Received 11 September 2007; Revised 28 February 2008; Accepted 2 April 2008

Academic Editor: Bhabani Dandapat

Copyright © 2008 C. Connell McCluskey. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A new approach for demonstrating the global stability of ordinary differential equations is given. It is shown that if the curvature of solutions is bounded on some set, then any nonconstant orbits that remain in the set, must contain points that lie some minimum distance apart from each other. This is used to establish a negative-criterion for periodic orbits. This is extended to give a method of proving an equilibrium to be globally stable. The approach can also be used to rule out the sudden appearance of large-amplitude periodic orbits.

1. Introduction

A key issue in the analysis of a system of ordinary differential equations is to determine the long-term dynamics. Generally, it is desirable, if possible, to know whether a system settles down to an equilibrium, approaches a limit cycle, or exhibits some other long-term behavior. In this paper, we give a method that uses the curvature of solutions to help show that a system approaches an equilibrium.

A nice feature of considering the curvature is that the calculation only involves local information. Furthermore, it is not necessary to calculate solutions to the differential equations since the curvature calculation uses the derivative of a solution, and this is given by the vector field that defines the flow.

On any set for which the curvature is bounded, there is a minimum length of a closed orbit (not including equilibria). Also, in such a set, any closed orbit must contain points that are a certain distance away from each other. The smaller the curvature, the farther apart certain points on the orbit must be from each other. This idea is used to formulate a negative criterion for periodic orbits. The method is then extended to give a criterion that shows that all forward trajectories leave the set.

Unfortunately, if the eigenvalues of the Jacobian at an equilibrium are not all equal, then the curvature near the equilibrium is unbounded. This makes it necessary to deal with the behavior near an equilibrium separately. For instance, one may use a Lyapunov function near an equilibrium to show that a certain neighborhood is contained in the equilibrium's basin of attraction. Then, analysis of the curvature can be used to show that all other solutions enter this set (by showing that they leave the complement), making the stability global.

This approach can also be useful in ruling out nonlocal bifurcations as parameters are varied. It is often possible to show that an equilibrium is locally asymptotically stable for all parameter values, and that it is globally stable for a particular set of parameter values. As parameters are varied, the continued local stability precludes the possibility of local bifurcations such as Hopf. Nonlocal bifurcations, however, may still occur. The method presented here can be used to preclude the existence (and sudden appearance) of large-amplitude periodic orbits and, therefore, help rule out nonlocal bifurcations.

We now give a brief outline of the paper. In Section 2, the curvature of parametric curves is discussed. This is applied to periodic solutions of differential equations in Section 3. In Section 4, results are given for omega limit points. Section 5 stability gives stability theorems. A discussion of how to apply the results is included in Section 6.

2. Curvature Calculations

Consider a curve given by the function , where is and is nonzero for all . In this paper, we use the convention that represents differentiation with respect to time.

Let be the arclength along from some reference point, that is, . We use the convention that when the arguement of a function is changed to , the function is considered to be reparameterized in terms of arc length. Note that , and so .

For each , the unit tangent at the point isand soThe curvature [1] of is defined to be and is given byUsing (2.2) gives

Let be a unit vector in . Let be the angle between and : Proposition 2.1. Proof. Noting that , we have . Letting be the angle between and , then, . Thus,We now show that is at most one. Since is a unit vector for all , it follows that is orthogonal to . Since is a unit vector separated from by angle , the component of normal to has magnitude . Thus, the component of in the direction of has magnitude less than or equal to . On the other hand, this magnitude is given by , showing that . Combining with (2.6) yields the proposition.

Now, suppose is a simple closed curve given by the -periodic function , where is nonvanishing. Let . Choose such that , and let , that is, is the unit tangent to at .

Since is -periodic, it follows that for all . Hence, . Combining this with the fact that is -periodic, continuous and positive at , we see that oscillates in sign and, therefore, must have at least two zeros in every interval of length . Let be the maximal interval containing such that is positive. Note that .

Let be the Euclidean distance between points . We now work toward finding a lower bound on the distance between the points and :Let be the least upper bound of on . Then, recalling that giveswhere the inequality follows from Proposition 2.1. Similarly, . Since and are orthogonal, it follows that . Similarly, and . This leads to the following result.

Theorem 2.2. Let be a simple closed curve and let be an upper bound for the curvature on . Then, given a point , there exist points such that and . Furthermore, the tangents to at and are orthogonal to the tangent at .

By not requiring that the curve be closed, we obtain the following result, which will be useful in Section 4.

Theorem 2.3. Let be an upper bound for the curvature on a curve which is given by , with nonvanishing. Suppose further that there exist , with such that the tangent at is orthogonal to the tangents at and , and for all . Then, and .

3. Periodic Solutions of Differential Equations

Consider the differential equationwhere is . We denote by the solution to (3.1) which passes through at time . Suppose is a nonconstant solution to (3.1). Noting that , it follows from (2.4) that the curvature at isThus, as long as the point is not an equilibrium of (3.1), the curvature at of the solution through can be precisely calculated without any explicit knowledge of the solution.

We now relate Theorem 2.2 to periodic solutions of ordinary differential equations.

Theorem 3.1. Let be the simple closed curve traced out by a nontrivial periodic solution of (3.1) and suppose that lies entirely in a region, where the curvature of solutions is bounded above by . Then, the conclusions of Theorem 2.2 hold.

Let . DefineThen, any periodic solution to (3.1) which lies entirely in has maximum curvature less than or equal to .Corollary 3.2. If contains no simple closed curve for which the maximum curvature is less than or equal to , then there are no nontrivial periodic orbits of (3.1) which lie entirely in .

Property (The Negative Property). Let be the maximum curvature of on a set which contains no equilibria. The set is said to have the negative property if it does not contain a point such that there are two corresponding points and satisfying and , with and orthogonal to .

Corollary 3.3. If has the negative property, then there are no periodic solutions to (3.1) contained entirely in .

4. Omega Limit Points

Theorem 4.1. Suppose has the negative property, and that is a forward trajectory of (3.1) which is contained entirely in . Then, the omega limit set of consists entirely of equilibria which lie in the closure of , but not in .Proof. Suppose is an omega limit point of , where for all , and that . Then, there is an increasing sequence of times which limits to such that . Then,Fix such that if , the open ball centred at with radius . Choose so that if and .
Taking the dot product of each side of (4.1) with a vector givesFor sufficiently large , we have and, therefore, for . Thus,Hence, the integrand must oscillate between positive and negative for large enough , in order that (4.2) be satisfied. Thus, for large enough , there exist and with , such that and are orthogonal to . Furthermore, and can be chosen so that is positive on the interval with these endpoints.
The only restriction on , thus far, is that . In order for to be sufficiently large for and to be defined, it is only necessary that . (For large , a change in the choice of will change the values of and but will not change the fact that they exist.) Now, fix to be sufficiently large that , and choose .
Applying Theorem 2.3, with , yields and . This contradicts the negative property, and so if is an omega limit point, then we must have .
Since satisfies the negative property, there are no equilibria in and, therefore, is not an element of . However, since is an omega limit point of , it must be an element of the closure of , completing the proof.
Corollary 4.2. If is a compact set which has the negative property, then there are no forward trajectories contained entirely in .Proof. Since is compact, any forward trajectory contained entirely in has a nonempty omega limit set . By Theorem 4.1, consists entirely of equilibria, but by the negative property contains no equilibria, so cannot contain an entire forward trajectory.Corollary 4.3. Let be the diameter of a compact set which contains no equilibria. If , then any orbit starting in leaves .

5. Stability Theorems

Suppose is positively invariant under (3.1). If is compact and has the negative property, then by Corollary 4.2 there are no forward trajectories contained entirely in . If it is known that all solutions intersecting limit to an equilibrium, then we can conclude that all solutions in limit to an equilibrium giving the following result.

Theorem 5.1. Suppose is positively invariant, and is a compact set which has the negative property. If all solutions in limit to an equilibrium, then all solutions in limit to an equilibrium.Corollary 5.2. Suppose is positively invariant and contains a unique equilibrium . Suppose is a compact set which has the negative property. If all solutions in limit , then is globally stable in .

We now consider the effect of making a change of variables. Supposewhere is a diffeomorphism. Then, , and soIf the set is compact and has the negative property for (5.2), then Corollary 4.2 implies solutions of (5.2) leave , which then implies solutions of (3.1) leave . This allow Theorem 5.1 to be generalized as follows. Theorem 5.3. Suppose is positively invariant under (3.1), is compact and that all solutions in limit to an equilibrium. If there exists a diffeomorphism such that has the negative property for (5.2), then all solutions in limit to an equilibrium.

6. Discussion

If it is known that the curvature of a vector field is bounded on a set, then it follows that the rate at which trajectories turn is bounded. A consequence of this is that a closed orbit has a minimum size. In particular, there exist points on the orbit which are separated by a distance at least twice as large as the reciprocal of the bound on the curvature.

This approach can be used to rule out periodic trajectories of a differential equation and to show that solutions which remain in a given set must limit to sets consisting of equilibria.

It may appear that this alone could be used to show global stability of an equilibrium in an invariant compact set, but there is a problem. Near an equilibrium the curvature is usually unbounded. This is true whenever the linearization at the equilibrium has at least two distinct eigenvalues.

Thus, in determining the global stability of an equilibrium, it would be necessary to deal with the behavior near the equilibrium in some other manner. For instance, one could use the linearization to obtain a quadratic form that could be used to show that a given neighborhood limits to the equilibrium. Then, by showing that the remainder of the compact set has the negative property, it would follow that the equilibrium is globally stable.


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