Bipolar cylindrical coordinates

Bipolar cylindrical coordinates

Bipolar cylindrical coordinates are a three-dimensional orthogonal coordinate system that results from projecting the two-dimensional bipolar coordinate system in theperpendicular z-direction. The two lines of foci F_{1} and F_{2} of the projected Apollonian circles are generally taken to be defined by x=-a and x=+a, respectively, (and by y=0) in the Cartesian coordinate system.

The term "bipolar" is often used to describe other curves having two singular points (foci), such as ellipses, hyperbolas, and Cassini ovals. However, the term "bipolar coordinates" is never used to describe coordinates associated with those curves, e.g., elliptic coordinates.

Basic definition

The most common definition of bipolar cylindrical coordinates (sigma, au, z) is

:x = a frac{sinh au}{cosh au - cos sigma}

:y = a frac{sin sigma}{cosh au - cos sigma}

:z = z

where the sigma coordinate of a point Pequals the angle F_{1} P F_{2} and the au coordinate equals the natural logarithm of the ratio of the distances d_{1} and d_{2} to the focal lines

: au = ln frac{d_{1{d_{2

(Recall that the focal lines F_{1} and F_{2} are located at x=-a and x=+a, respectively.)

Surfaces of constant sigma correspond to cylinders of different radii

:x^{2} +left( y - a cot sigma ight)^{2} = frac{a^{2{sin^{2} sigma}

that all pass through the focal lines and are not concentric. The surfaces of constant au are non-intersecting cylinders of different radii

:y^{2} +left( x - a coth au ight)^{2} = frac{a^{2{sinh^{2} au}

that surround the focal lines but again are not concentric. The focal lines and all these cylinders are parallel to the z-axis (the direction of projection). In the z=0 plane, the centers of the constant-sigma and constant- au cylinders lie on the y and x axes, respectively.

cale factors

The scale factors for the bipolar coordinates sigma and au are equal

:h_{sigma} = h_{ au} = frac{a}{cosh au - cossigma}

whereas the remaining scale factor h_{z}=1. Thus, the infinitesimal volume element equals

:dV = frac{a^{2{left( cosh au - cossigma ight)^{2 dsigma d au dz

and the Laplacian is given by

: abla^{2} Phi =frac{1}{a^{2 left( cosh au - cossigma ight)^{2}left( frac{partial^{2} Phi}{partial sigma^{2 + frac{partial^{2} Phi}{partial au^{2 ight) + frac{partial^{2} Phi}{partial z^{2

Other differential operators such as abla cdot mathbf{F} and abla imes mathbf{F} can be expressed in the coordinates (sigma, au) by substituting the scale factors into the general formulae found in orthogonal coordinates.


The classic applications of bipolar coordinates are in solving partial differential equations, e.g., Laplace's equation or the Helmholtz equation, for which bipolar coordinates allow a
separation of variables. A typical example would be the electric field surrounding two parallel cylindrical conductors.

See also


* | pages = pp. 187–190

*, ASIN B0000CKZX7 | pages = p. 182


External links

* [ MathWorld description of bipolar cylindrical coordinates]

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