Motion planning for parabolic equations using flatness and finite-difference approximations

Soham Chatterjee, Vivek Natarajan

We consider the problem of finding an input signal which transfers a linear boundary controlled 1D parabolic partial differential equation, with spatially-varying coefficients and a non-local term, from a given initial state to a desired final state. The initial and final states have certain smoothness and the transfer must occur over a given time interval. We address this motion planning problem by first discretizing the spatial derivatives in the parabolic equation using the finite-difference approximation to obtain a linear ODE in time. Then using the flatness approach we construct an input signal that transfers this ODE between states determined by the initial and final states of the parabolic equation. We prove that, as the discretization step size converges to zero, this input signal converges to a limiting input signal which can perform the desired transfer for the parabolic equation. While earlier works have applied this motion planning approach to constant coefficient parabolic equations, this is the first work to investigate and establish the efficacy of this approach for parabolic equations with discontinuous spatially-varying coefficients. Using this approach we can construct input signals which transfer the parabolic equation from one steady-state to another. We also show that this approach yields a new proof for the null controllability of 1D linear parabolic equations containing discontinuous coefficients and a non-local integral term.

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