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In algebra, the partial fraction decomposition or partial fraction expansion is a procedure used to reduce the degree of either the numerator or the denominator of a rational function (also known as a rational algebraic fraction).
In symbols, one can use partial fraction expansion to change a rational function in the form
where ƒ and g are polynomials, into a function of the form
where gj (x) are polynomials that are factors of g(x), and are in general of lower degree. Thus, the partial fraction decomposition may be seen as the inverse procedure of the more elementary operation of addition of algebraic fractions, which produces a single rational function with a numerator and denominator usually of high degree. The full decomposition pushes the reduction as far as it will go: in other words, the factorization of g is used as much as possible. Thus, the outcome of a full partial fraction expansion expresses that function as a sum of fractions, where:
- the denominator of each term is a power of an irreducible (not factorable) polynomial and
- the numerator is a polynomial of smaller degree than that irreducible polynomial. To decrease the degree of the numerator directly, the Euclidean algorithm can be used, but in fact if ƒ already has lower degree than g this isn't helpful.
The main motivation to decompose a rational function into a sum of simpler fractions is to make it simpler to perform linear operations on the sum. Therefore, the problem of computing derivatives, antiderivatives, integrals, power series expansions, Fourier series, Laplace transforms, residues, and linear functional transformations of rational functions can be reduced, via partial fraction decomposition, to focusing on computing each single element of the decomposition. See e.g. partial fractions in integration for an account of the use of the partial fractions in finding antiderivatives. Just which polynomials are irreducible depends on which field of scalars one adopts. Thus, if one allows only real numbers, then irreducible polynomials are of degree either 1 or 2. If complex numbers are allowed, only 1st-degree polynomials can be irreducible. If one allows only rational numbers, or a finite field, then some higher-degree polynomials are irreducible.
Basic principles 
The basic principles involved are quite simple; it is the algorithmic aspects that require attention in particular cases. On the other hand, the existence of a decomposition of a certain kind is an assumption in practical cases, and the principles should explain which assumptions are justified.
for some polynomials C(x) and D(x) (see Bézout's identity).
Using this idea inductively we can write R(x) as a sum with denominators powers of irreducible polynomials. To take this further, if required, write:
as a sum with denominators powers of F and numerators of degree less than F, plus a possible extra polynomial. This can be done by the Euclidean algorithm, polynomial case. The result is the following theorem:
Let ƒ and g be nonzero polynomials over a field K. Write g as a product of powers of distinct irreducible polynomials :
There are (unique) polynomials b and aij with deg aij < deg pi such that
If deg ƒ < deg g, then b = 0.
Therefore, when the field K is the complex numbers, we can assume that each pi has degree 1 (by the fundamental theorem of algebra) the numerators will be constant. When K is the real numbers, some of the pi might be quadratic, so in the partial fraction decomposition a quotient of a linear polynomial by a power of a quadratic might occur.
In the preceding theorem, one may replace "distinct irreducible polynomials" by "pairwise coprime polynomials that are coprime with their derivative". For example, the pi may be the factors of the square-free factorization of g. When K is the field of the rational numbers, as it is typically the case in computer algebra, this allows to replace factorization by greatest common divisor to compute the partial fraction decomposition.
Application to symbolic integration 
For the purpose of symbolic integration, the preceding result may be refined into
Let ƒ and g be nonzero polynomials over a field K. Write g as a product of powers of pairwise coprime polynomials which have no multiple root in an algebraically closed field:
There are (unique) polynomials b and cij with deg cij < deg pi such that
where denotes the derivative of
This reduces the computation of the antiderivative of a rational function to the integration of the last sum, with is called the logarithmic part, because its antiderivative is a linear combination of logarithms. In fact, we have
There are various methods to compute above decomposition. The one that is the simplest to describe is probably the so called Hermite's method. As the degree of cij is bounded by the degree of pi, and the degree of b is the difference of the degrees of f and g (if this difference is non negative; otherwise, b=0), one may write these unknowns polynomials as polynomials with unknown coefficients. Reducing the two members of above formula to the same denominator and writing that the the coefficients of each power of x are the same in the two numerators, one gets a system of linear equations which can be solved to obtain the desired values for the unknowns coefficients.
Given two polynomials and , where the αi are distinct constants and deg P < n, partial fractions are generally obtained by supposing that
A more direct computation, which is strongly related with Lagrange interpolation consists in writing
where is the derivative of the polynomial .
This approach does not account for several other cases, but can be modified accordingly:
- If deg P deg Q, then it is necessary to perform the Euclidean division of P by Q, using polynomial long division, giving P(x) = E(x) Q(x) + R(x) with deg R < n. Dividing by Q(x) this gives
- and then seek partial fractions for the remainder fraction (which by definition satisfies deg R < deg Q).
- If Q(x) contains factors which are irreducible over the given field, then the numerator N(x) of each partial fraction with such a factor F(x) in the denominator must be sought as a polynomial with deg N < deg F, rather than as a constant. For example, take the following decomposition over R:
- Suppose Q(x) = (x − α)rS(x) and S(α) ≠ 0. Then Q(x) has a zero α of multiplicity r, and in the partial fraction decomposition, r of the partial fractions will involve the powers of (x − α). For illustration, take S(x) = 1 to get the following decomposition:
In an example application of this procedure, (3x + 5)/(1 − 2x)2 can be decomposed in the form
Clearing denominators shows that 3x + 5 = A + B(1 − 2x). Expanding and equating the coefficients of powers of x gives
- 5 = A + B and 3x = −2Bx
Solving for A and B yields A = 13/2 and B = −3/2. Hence,
Residue method 
Over the complex numbers, suppose ƒ(x) is a rational proper fraction, and can be decomposed into
This is given directly by the formula
or in the special case when xi is a simple root,
Note that P(x) and Q(x) may or may not be polynomials.
Over the reals 
Partial fractions are used in real-variable integral calculus to find real-valued antiderivatives of rational functions. Partial fraction decomposition of real rational functions is also used to find their Inverse Laplace transforms. For applications of partial fraction decomposition over the reals, see
General result 
Let ƒ(x) be any rational function over the real numbers. In other words, suppose there exist real polynomials p(x) and q(x)≠ 0, such that
where a1,..., am, b1,..., bn, c1,..., cn are real numbers with bi2 − 4ci < 0, and j1,..., jm, k1,..., kn are positive integers. The terms (x − ai) are the linear factors of q(x) which correspond to real roots of q(x), and the terms (xi2 + bix + ci) are the irreducible quadratic factors of q(x) which correspond to pairs of complex conjugate roots of q(x).
Then the partial fraction decomposition of ƒ(x) is the following:
Here, P(x) is a (possibly zero) polynomial, and the Air, Bir, and Cir are real constants. There are a number of ways the constants can be found.
The most straightforward method is to multiply through by the common denominator q(x). We then obtain an equation of polynomials whose left-hand side is simply p(x) and whose right-hand side has coefficients which are linear expressions of the constants Air, Bir, and Cir. Since two polynomials are equal if and only if their corresponding coefficients are equal, we can equate the coefficients of like terms. In this way, a system of linear equations is obtained which always has a unique solution. This solution can be found using any of the standard methods of linear algebra. It can also be found with limits (see Example 5).
Example 1 
Here, the denominator splits into two distinct linear factors:
so we have the partial fraction decomposition
Multiplying through by x2 + 2x − 3, we have the polynomial identity
Substituting x = −3 into this equation gives A = −1/4, and substituting x = 1 gives B = 1/4, so that
Example 2 
After long-division, we have
Since (−4)2 − 4(8) = −16 < 0, x2 − 4x + 8 is irreducible, and so
Multiplying through by x3 − 4x2 + 8x, we have the polynomial identity
Taking x = 0, we see that 16 = 8A, so A = 2. Comparing the x2 coefficients, we see that 4 = A + B = 2 + B, so B = 2. Comparing linear coefficients, we see that −8 = −4A + C = −8 + C, so C = 0. Altogether,
The following example illustrates almost all the "tricks" one would need to use short of consulting a computer algebra system.
Example 3 
The partial fraction decomposition takes the form
Multiplying through by (x − 1)3(x2 + 1)2 we have the polynomial identity
Taking x = 1 gives 4 = 4C, so C = 1. Similarly, taking x = i gives 2 + 2i = (Fi + G)(2 + 2i), so Fi + G = 1, so F = 0 and G = 1 by equating real and imaginary parts. With C = G = 1 and F = 0, taking x = 0 we get A − B + 1 − E − 1 = 0, thus E = A − B.
We now have the identity
Expanding and sorting by exponents of x we get
We can now compare the coefficients and see that
with A = 2 − D and −A −3 D =−4 we get A = D = 1 and so B = 0, furthermore is C = 1, E = A − B = 1, F = 0 and G = 1.
The partial fraction decomposition of ƒ(x) is thus
Alternatively, instead of expanding, one can obtain other linear dependences on the coefficients computing some derivatives at x=1 and at x=i in the above polynomial identity. (To this end, recall that the derivative at x=a of (x−a)mp(x) vanishes if m > 1 and it is just p(a) if m=1.) Thus, for instance the first derivative at x=1 gives
that is 8 = 2B + 8 so B=0.
Example 4 (residue method) 
Thus, f(z) can be decomposed into rational functions whose denominators are z+1, z−1, z+i, z−i. Since each term is of power one, −1, 1, −i and i are simple poles.
Hence, the residues associated with each pole, given by
Example 5 (limit method) 
First, factor the denominator:
The decomposition takes the form of
As , the A term dominates, so the right-hand side approaches . Thus, we have
As , the right-hand side is
At , . Therefore, .
The decomposition is thus .
The role of the Taylor polynomial 
The partial fraction decomposition of a rational function can be related to Taylor's theorem as follows. Let
be real or complex polynomials; assume that
Then we have
if, and only if, for each the polynomial is the Taylor polynomial of of order at the point :
Taylor's theorem (in the real or complex case) then provides a proof of the existence and uniqueness of the partial fraction decomposition, and a characterization of the coefficients.
Sketch of the proof: The above partial fraction decomposition implies, for each 1 ≤ i ≤ r, a polynomial expansion
- , as
so is the Taylor polynomial of , because of the unicity of the polynomial expansion of order , and by assumption .
Conversely, if the are the Taylor polynomials, the above expansions at each hold, therefore we also have
- , as
which implies that the polynomial is divisible by
For also is divisible by , so we have in turn that is divisible by . Since we then have , and we find the partial fraction decomposition dividing by .
Fractions of integers 
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