Kadomtsev–Petviashvili equation

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Crossing swells, consisting of near-cnoidal wave trains. Photo taken from Phares des Baleines (Whale Lighthouse) at the western point of Île de Ré (Isle of Rhé), France, in the Atlantic Ocean. The interaction of such near-solitons in shallow water may be modeled through the Kadomtsev–Petviashvili equation.

In mathematics and physics, the Kadomtsev–Petviashvili equation – or KP equation, named after Boris Borisovich Kadomtsev and Vladimir Iosifovich Petviashvili – is a partial differential equation to describe nonlinear wave motion. The KP equation is usually written as:

where . The above form shows that the KP equation is a generalization to two spatial dimensions, x and y, of the one-dimensional Korteweg–de Vries (KdV) equation. To be physically meaningful, the wave propagation direction has to be not-too-far from the x direction, i.e. with only slow variations of solutions in the y direction.

Like the KdV equation, the KP equation is completely integrable.[1][2][3][4][5] It can also be solved using the inverse scattering transform much like the nonlinear Schrödinger equation.[6]


Boris Kadomtsev.

The KP equation was first written in 1970 by Soviet physicists Boris B. Kadomtsev (1928–1998) and Vladimir I. Petviashvili (1936–1993); it came as a natural generalization of the KdV equation (derived by Korteweg and De Vries in 1895). Whereas in the KdV equation waves are strictly one-dimensional, in the KP equation this restriction is relaxed. Still, both in the KdV and the KP equation, waves have to travel in the positive x-direction.

Connections to physics[edit]

The KP equation can be used to model water waves of long wavelength with weakly non-linear restoring forces and frequency dispersion. If surface tension is weak compared to gravitational forces, is used; if surface tension is strong, then . Because of the asymmetry in the way x- and y-terms enter the equation, the waves described by the KP equation behave differently in the direction of propagation (x-direction) and transverse (y) direction; oscillations in the y-direction tend to be smoother (be of small-deviation).

The KP equation can also be used to model waves in ferromagnetic media[7], as well as two-dimensional matter–wave pulses in Bose–Einstein condensates.

Limiting behavior[edit]

For , typical x-dependent oscillations have a wavelength of giving a singular limiting regime as . The limit is called the dispersionless limit[8][9][10].

If we also assume that the solutions are independent of y as , then they also satisfy the inviscid Burgers' equation:

Suppose the amplitude of oscillations of a solution is asymptotically small — — in the dispersionless limit. Then the amplitude satisfies a mean-field equation of Davey–Stewartson type.

See also[edit]


  • Kadomtsev, B. B.; Petviashvili, V. I. (1970). "On the stability of solitary waves in weakly dispersive media". Sov. Phys. Dokl. 15: 539–541. Bibcode:1970SPhD...15..539K.. Translation of "Об устойчивости уединенных волн в слабо диспергирующих средах". Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR. 192: 753–756.
  • Previato, Emma (2001) [1994], "K/k120110", in Hazewinkel, Michiel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer Science+Business Media B.V. / Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-1-55608-010-4
  • Kodama, Y. (2017). KP Solitons and the Grassmannians: combinatorics and geometry of two-dimensional wave patterns. Springer.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lou, S. Y., & Hu, X. B. (1997). Infinitely many Lax pairs and symmetry constraints of the KP equation. Journal of Mathematical Physics, 38(12), 6401-6427.
  • Nakamura, A. (1989). A bilinear N-soliton formula for the KP equation. Journal of the Physical Society of Japan, 58(2), 412-422.
  • Kodama, Y. (2004). Young diagrams and N-soliton solutions of the KP equation. Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General, 37(46), 11169.
  • Xiao, T., & Zeng, Y. (2004). Generalized Darboux transformations for the KP equation with self-consistent sources. Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General, 37(28), 7143.
  • Minzoni, A. A., & Smyth, N. F. (1996). Evolution of lump solutions for the KP equation. Wave Motion, 24(3), 291-305.

Cited articles[edit]

  1. ^ Wazwaz, A. M. (2007). Multiple-soliton solutions for the KP equation by Hirota’s bilinear method and by the tanh–coth method. Applied Mathematics and Computation, 190(1), 633-640.
  2. ^ Cheng, Y., & Li, Y. S. (1991). The constraint of the Kadomtsev-Petviashvili equation and its special solutions. Physics Letters A, 157(1), 22-26.
  3. ^ Ma, W. X. (2015). Lump solutions to the Kadomtsev–Petviashvili equation. Physics Letters A, 379(36), 1975-1978.
  4. ^ Kodama, Y. (2004). Young diagrams and N-soliton solutions of the KP equation. Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General, 37(46), 11169.
  5. ^ Deng, S. F., Chen, D. Y., & Zhang, D. J. (2003). The multisoliton solutions of the KP equation with self-consistent sources. Journal of the Physical Society of Japan, 72(9), 2184-2192.
  6. ^ Ablowitz, M. J., & Segur, H. (1981). Solitons and the inverse scattering transform. SIAM.
  7. ^ Leblond, H. (2002). KP lumps in ferromagnets: a three-dimensional KdV–Burgers model. Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General, 35(47), 10149.
  8. ^ Zakharov, V. E. (1994). Dispersionless limit of integrable systems in 2+ 1 dimensions. In Singular limits of dispersive waves (pp. 165-174). Springer, Boston, MA.
  9. ^ Strachan, I. A. (1995). The Moyal bracket and the dispersionless limit of the KP hierarchy. Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General, 28(7), 1967.
  10. ^ Takasaki, K., & Takebe, T. (1995). Integrable hierarchies and dispersionless limit. Reviews in Mathematical Physics, 7(05), 743-808.

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