A restricted Bäcklund transformation

David W. McLaughlin, Alwyn C. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Bäcklund transformation provides a mathematical tool which displays the interaction of solitons. Here a simple, systematic Bäcklund formalism is introduced which permits the explicit construction of these transformations for a restricted class of nonlinear wave equations. Traditionally a Bäcklund transformation has been viewed as a transformation of a solution surface of a partial differential equation into another surface which may not satisfy the same equation. In the present paper the term "restricted Bäcklund transformation" (hereafter abbreviated R-B) is used to refer to the case in which the transformed surface does satisfy the same equation. This formalism clarifies the nature of those transformations which have already been used to study nonlinear interactions in many physical problems. The formalism is introduced through a form of the linear Klein-Gordon equation. For this linear example a complete set of Fourier components is generated by a sequence of R-B transformations. This concrete example also indicates the type of results one can expect in the nonlinear case. For the nonlinear equation φxy = F(φ), a theorem is established which states that R-B transformations exist if and only if the nonlinearity F(·) satisfies F″ = κF, where κ is a constant. For such nonlinearities, the R-B transformations are explicitly constructed and are used to display exact nonlinear interactions. A relationship between the condition F″ = κF, the existence of an infinite number of conservation laws, and the transformation theory is briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1817-1828
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Mathematical Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1973

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics


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