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The Solution of Partial Differential Equations by Means of Electrical Networks


MacNeal, Richard Henri (1949) The Solution of Partial Differential Equations by Means of Electrical Networks. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/PZ04-5290.


The material in this thesis is the result of a year's experience in the solution of problems on the Caltech Electric Analog Computer. Although much work has been done elsewhere, the solution of partial differential equations is a relatively new field for the Caltech Computer. It is natural that such an undertaking should initiate points of view and techniques that differ from those of other investigators., This thesis contains the development of certain ideas that have been useful to the author in the solution of problems on the computer. In Part I, finite difference methods are treated with reference to problems with one space variable. Techniques are developed for the representation of differential operators by means of electrical networks and the question of unequal lumping is discussed. The solutions of the fourth order differential equations of a beam are treated in Part II. Such practical considerations as the effects of parasitic impedances and cell size are investigated. Solutions are presented for the normal modes of a cantilever beam, the transient vibration of a cantilever beam, and the coupled modes of vibration of an airplane wing. Problems involving the scalar Laplacian operator are treated in Part III. A general asymmetric network is developed that is useful for problems with irregular boundaries and for problems where it is desired to have variable cell size. These techniques are illustrated with respect to a cavity resonator problem and an electromagnetic radiation problem. Elastic plate problems are treated in Part IV. The analogy for the elastic plate is an extension of the beam analogy to two dimensions. Here the difficult problems are those relating to the representation of boundary conditions, particularly of boundary conditions along an irregular edge. Some conclusions regarding the construction of a network analyzer designed specifically for the solution of partial differential equations are given in Part V. The chief conclusion is that such a computer must contain a much larger number of electrical elements than are at present available in the Caltech Computer.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:(Electrical Engineering and Physics)
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
Minor Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Unknown, Unknown
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:1 January 1949
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-04282004-143609
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1529
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:29 Apr 2004
Last Modified:28 Mar 2023 21:47

Thesis Files

PDF (MacNeal_rh_1949.pdf) - Final Version
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