 Oblate spheroidal coordinates

Oblate spheroidal coordinates are a threedimensional orthogonal coordinate system that results from rotating the twodimensional elliptic coordinate system about the nonfocal axis of the ellipse, i.e., the symmetry axis that separates the foci. Thus, the two foci are transformed into a ring of radius a in the xy plane. (Rotation about the other axis produces the prolate spheroidal coordinates.) Oblate spheroidal coordinates can also be considered as a limiting case of ellipsoidal coordinates in which the two largest semiaxes are equal in length.
Oblate spheroidal coordinates are often useful in solving partial differential equations when the boundary conditions are defined on an oblate spheroid or a hyperboloid of revolution. For example, they played an important role in the calculation of the Perrin friction factors, which contributed to the awarding of the 1926 Nobel Prize in Physics to Jean Baptiste Perrin. These friction factors determine the rotational diffusion of molecules, which affects the feasibility of many techniques such as protein NMR and from which the hydrodynamic volume and shape of molecules can be inferred. Oblate spheroidal coordinates are also useful in problems of electromagnetism (e.g., dielectric constant of charged oblate molecules), acoustics (e.g., scattering of sound through a circular hole), fluid dynamics (e.g., the flow of water through a firehose nozzle) and the diffusion of materials and heat (e.g., cooling of a redhot coin in a water bath).
Contents
Definition (μ, ν, φ)
The most common definition of oblate spheroidal coordinates (μ, ν, φ) is
where μ is a nonnegative real number and the angle ν lies between ±90°. The azimuthal angle φ can fall anywhere on a full circle, between ±180°. These coordinates are favored over the alternatives below because they are not degenerate; every point in Cartesian coordinates (x, y, z) is described by exactly one set of coordinates (μ, ν, φ), and vice versa.
Coordinate surfaces
The surfaces of constant μ form oblate spheroids, by the trigonometric identity
since they are ellipses rotated about the zaxis, which separates their foci. An ellipse in the xz plane (Figure 2) has a major semiaxis of length a cosh μ along the xaxis, whereas its minor semiaxis has length a sinh μ along the zaxis. The foci of all the ellipses in the xz plane are located on the xaxis at ±a.
Similarly, the surfaces of constant ν form onesheet half hyperboloids of revolution by the hyperbolic trigonometric identity
For positive ν, the halfhyperboloid is above the xy plane (i.e., has positive z) whereas for negative ν, the halfhyperboloid is below the xy plane (i.e., has negative z). Geometrically, the angle ν corresponds to the angle of the asymptotes of the hyperbola. The foci of all the hyperbolae are likewise located on the xaxis at ±a.
Inverse transformation
The (μ, ν, φ) coordinates may be calculated from the Cartesian coordinates (x, y, z) as follows. The azimuthal angle φ is given by the formula
The cylindrical radius ρ of the point P is given by
 ρ^{2} = x^{2} + y^{2}
and its distances to the foci in the plane defined by φ is given by
The remaining coordinates μ and ν can be calculated from the equations
where the sign of μ is always nonnegative, and the sign of ν is the same as that of z.
Scale factors
The scale factors for the coordinates μ and ν are equal
whereas the azimuthal scale factor equals
Consequently, an infinitesimal volume element equals
and the Laplacian can be written
Other differential operators such as and can be expressed in the coordinates (μ, ν, φ) by substituting the scale factors into the general formulae found in orthogonal coordinates.
Definition (ζ, ξ, φ)
Another set of oblate spheroidal coordinates (ζ,ξ,ϕ) are sometimes used where ζ = sinh μ and ξ = sin ν (Smythe 1968). The curves of constant ζ are oblate spheroids and the curves of constant ξ are the hyperboloids of revolution. The coordinate ζ is restricted by and ξ is restricted by .
The relationship to Cartesian coordinates is
Scale factors
The scale factors for (ζ,ξ,φ) are:
Knowing the scale factors, various functions of the coordinates can be calculated by the general method outlined in the orthogonal coordinates article. The infinitesimal volume element is:
The gradient is:
The divergence is:
and the Laplacian equals
Oblate spheroidal harmonics
As is the case with spherical coordinates and spherical harmonics, Laplace's equation may be solved by the method of separation of variables to yield solutions in the form of oblate spheroidal harmonics, which are convenient to use when boundary conditions are defined on a surface with a constant oblate spheroidal coordinate.
Following the technique of separation of variables, a solution to Laplace's equation is written:
This yields three separate differential equations in each of the variables:
where m is a constant which is an integer because the φ variable is periodic with period 2π. n will then be an integer. The solution to these equations are:
where the A_{i} are constants and and are associated Legendre polynomials of the first and second kind respectively. The product of the three solutions is called an oblate spheroidal harmonic and the general solution to Laplace's equation is written:
The constants will combine to yield only four independent constants for each harmonic.
Definition (σ, τ, φ)
An alternative and geometrically intuitive set of oblate spheroidal coordinates (σ, τ, φ) are sometimes used, where σ = cosh μ and τ = cos ν.^{[1]} Therefore, the coordinate σ must be greater than or equal to one, whereas τ must lie between ±1, inclusive. The surfaces of constant σ are oblate spheroids, as were those of constant μ, whereas the curves of constant τ are full hyperboloids of revolution, including the halfhyperboloids corresponding to ±ν. Thus, these coordinates are degenerate; two points in Cartesian coordinates (x, y, ±z) map to one set of coordinates (σ, τ, φ). This twofold degeneracy in the sign of z is evident from the equations transforming from oblate spheroidal coordinates to the Cartesian coordinates
The coordinates σ and τ have a simple relation to the distances to the focal ring. For any point, the sum d_{1} + d_{2} of its distances to the focal ring equals 2aσ, whereas their difference d_{1} − d_{2} equals 2aτ. Thus, the "far" distance to the focal ring is a(σ + τ), whereas the "near" distance is a(σ − τ).
Coordinate surfaces
Similar to its counterpart μ, the surfaces of constant σ form oblate spheroids
Similarly, the surfaces of constant τ form full onesheet hyperboloids of revolution
Scale factors
The scale factors for the alternative oblate spheroidal coordinates (σ,τ,ϕ) are
whereas the azimuthal scale factor is h_{ϕ} = aστ.
Hence, the infinitesimal volume element can be written
and the Laplacian equals
Other differential operators such as and can be expressed in the coordinates (σ,τ) by substituting the scale factors into the general formulae found in orthogonal coordinates.
As is the case with spherical coordinates, Laplaces equation may be solved by the method of separation of variables to yield solutions in the form of oblate spheroidal harmonics, which are convenient to use when boundary conditions are defined on a surface with a constant oblate spheroidal coordinate (See Smythe, 1968).
References
 ^ Abramowitz and Stegun, p. 752.
Bibliography
No angles convention
 Morse PM, Feshbach H (1953). Methods of Theoretical Physics, Part I. New York: McGrawHill. p. 662. Uses ξ_{1} = a sinh μ, ξ_{2} = sin ν, and ξ_{3} = cos φ.
 Zwillinger D (1992). Handbook of Integration. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett. p. 115. ISBN 0867202939. Same as Morse & Feshbach (1953), substituting u_{k} for ξ_{k}.
 Smythe, WR (1968). Static and Dynamic Electricity (3rd ed. ed.). New York: McGrawHill.
 Sauer R, Szabó I (1967). Mathematische Hilfsmittel des Ingenieurs. New York: Springer Verlag. p. 98. LCCN 6725285. Uses hybrid coordinates ξ = sinh μ, η = sin ν, and φ.
Angle convention
 Korn GA, Korn TM (1961). Mathematical Handbook for Scientists and Engineers. New York: McGrawHill. p. 177. LCCN 5914456. Korn and Korn use the (μ, ν, φ) coordinates, but also introduce the degenerate (σ, τ, φ) coordinates.
 Margenau H, Murphy GM (1956). The Mathematics of Physics and Chemistry. New York: D. van Nostrand. p. 182. LCCN 5510911. Like Korn and Korn (1961), but uses colatitude θ = 90°  ν instead of latitude ν.
 Moon PH, Spencer DE (1988). "Oblate spheroidal coordinates (η, θ, ψ)". Field Theory Handbook, Including Coordinate Systems, Differential Equations, and Their Solutions (corrected 2nd ed., 3rd print ed. ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. pp. 31–34 (Table 1.07). ISBN 0387027327. Moon and Spencer use the colatitude convention θ = 90°  ν, and rename φ as ψ.
Unusual convention
 Landau LD, Lifshitz EM, Pitaevskii LP (1984). Electrodynamics of Continuous Media (Volume 8 of the Course of Theoretical Physics) (2nd edition ed.). New York: Pergamon Press. pp. 19–29. ISBN 9780750626347. Treats the oblate spheroidal coordinates as a limiting case of the general ellipsoidal coordinates. Uses (ξ, η, ζ) coordinates that have the units of distance squared.
External links
Orthogonal coordinate systems Two dimensional orthogonal coordinate systems Three dimensional orthogonal coordinate systems Cartesian coordinate system • Cylindrical coordinate system • Spherical coordinate system • Parabolic cylindrical coordinates • Paraboloidal coordinates • Oblate spheroidal coordinates • Prolate spheroidal coordinates • Ellipsoidal coordinates • Elliptic cylindrical coordinates • Toroidal coordinates • Bispherical coordinates • Bipolar cylindrical coordinates • Conical coordinates • Flatring cyclide coordinates • Flatdisk cyclide coordinates • Bicyclide coordinates • Capcyclide coordinates • Concave bisinusoidal singlecentered coordinates • Concave bisinusoidal doublecentered coordinates • Convex invertedsinusoidal sphericallyaligned coordinates • Quasirandomintersection cartesian coordinatesCategories: Coordinate systems
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.