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(2) Ax = λx

Here A is a given square matrix, λ an unknown scalar, and

x an unknown vector.

The solutions to (1) are given the following names: The λ’s

that satisfy (1) are called eigenvalues of A and the

corresponding nonzero x’s that also satisfy (1) are called

eigenvectors of A.

Eigenvalues

The eigenvalues of a square matrix A are the roots of the

characteristic equation of A.

Hence an n × n matrix has at least one eigenvalue and at most n

numerically different eigenvalues.

Equation (1) written in components is

Transferring the terms on the right side to the left side, we

have

(2)

How to Find Eigenvalues and Eigenvectors

11 1 1 1

21 1 2 2

1 1

.

n n

n n

n nn n n

a x a x x

a x a x x

a x a x x

ì

ì

ì

+ + =

+ + =

+ + =

11 1 12 2 1

21 1 22 2 2

1 1 2 2

( ) 0

( ) 0

( ) 0.

n n

n n

n n nn n

a x a x a x

a x a x a x

a x a x a x

ì

ì

ì

÷ + + + =

+ ÷ + + =

+ + + ÷ =

In matrix notation,

(3)

By Cramer’s theorem, this homogeneous linear system of

equations has a solution if and only if the corresponding

determinant of the coefficients is zero:

(4)

( ) . ì ÷ = A I x 0

11 12 1

21 22 2

1 2

( ) det( ) 0.

n

n

n n nn

a a a

a a a

D

a a a

ì

ì

ì ì

ì

÷

÷

= ÷ = =

· · ·

÷

A I

EXAMPLE 1

Determination of Eigenvalues and Eigenvectors

5 2

.

2 2

÷ (

=

(

÷

¸ ¸

A

Solution.

(a) Eigenvalues. These must be determined first.

Equation (1) is

1 2 1

1 2 2

5 2

2 2 .

x x x

x x x

ì

ì

÷ + =

÷ =

1 1

2 2

5 2

;

2 2

x x

x x

ì

÷ ( ( (

= =

( ( (

÷

¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸

Ax

(a) Eigenvalues. (continued)

Transferring the terms on the right to the left, we get

(2*)

This can be written in matrix notation

(3*)

Because (1) is Ax − λx = Ax − λIx = (A − λI)x = 0,

which gives (3*).

1 2

1 2

( 5 ) 2 0

2 ( 2 ) 0

x x

x x

ì

ì

÷ ÷ + =

+ ÷ ÷ =

( ) 0 ì ÷ = A I x

(a) Eigenvalues.

We see that this is a homogeneous linear system. By

Cramer’s theorem, it has a solution (an eigenvector of A we

are looking for) if and only if its coefficient determinant is

zero, that is,

(4*)

The solutions of this quadratic equation are λ

1

= −1 and λ

2

=

−6.

These are the eigenvalues of A.

(b

1

) Eigenvector of A corresponding to λ

1

. This vector is

obtained from (2*) with λ = λ

1

= −1, that is,

1 2

1 2

4 2 0

2 0.

x x

x x

÷ + =

÷ =

Eigenvector of A corresponding to λ

1

.

A solution is x

2

= 2x

1

, as we see from either of the two

equations, so that we need only one of them.

This determines an eigenvector corresponding to λ

1

= −1 up

to a scalar multiple. If we choose x

1

= 1, we obtain the

eigenvector

1 1 1 1 1

1 5 2 1 1

, Check: ( 1) .

2 2 2 2 2

x x ì

÷ ÷ ( ( ( (

= = = = ÷ =

( ( ( (

÷ ÷

¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸

x Ax

An elastic membrane in the x

1

x

2

-plane with boundary circle

x

1

2

+ x

2

2

= 1 (Fig.) is stretched so that a point P: (x

1

, x

2

) goes

over into the point Q: (y

1

, y

2

) given by

(1)

in components,

Find the principal directions, that is, the directions of the

position vector x of P for which the direction of the position

vector y of Q is the same or exactly opposite.

EXAMPLE 2 : Stretching of an Elastic Membrane

1 1

2 2

5 3

= ;

3 5

y x

y x

( ( (

= =

( ( (

¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸

y Ax

1 1 2

2 1 2

5 3

3 5 .

y x x

y x x

= +

= +

Solution.

We are looking for vectors x such that y = λx. Since y = Ax,

this gives Ax = λx, the equation of an eigenvalue problem.

In components, Ax = λx is

(2) or

The characteristic equation is

(3)

1 2 1

1 2 2

5 3

3 5

x x x

x x x

ì

ì

+ =

+ =

1 2

1 2

(5 ) 3 0

3 (5 ) 0.

x x

x x

ì

ì

÷ + =

+ ÷ =

2

5 3

(5 ) 9 0.

3 5

ì

ì

ì

÷

= ÷ ÷ =

÷

Its solutions are λ

1

= 8 and λ

2

= 2. These are the

eigenvalues of our problem. For λ = λ

1

= 8, our system (2)

becomes

−3x

1

+ 3x

2

= 0, Solution x

2

= x

1

, x

1

arbitrary,

3x

1

− 3x

2

= 0. for instance, x

1

= x

2

= 1.

For λ

2

= 2, our system (2) becomes

3x

1

+ 3x

2

= 0, Solution x

2

= −x

1

, x

1

arbitrary,

3x

1

+ 3x

2

= 0. for instance, x

1

= 1, x

2

= −1.

We thus obtain as eigenvectors of A, for instance, [1 1]

T

corresponding to λ

1

and *1 −1+

T

corresponding to λ

2

(or a

nonzero scalar multiple of these).

These vectors make 45° and 135° angles with the positive

x

1

-direction.

They give the principal directions, the answer to our

problem.

The eigenvalues show that in the principal directions the

membrane is stretched by factors 8 and 2, respectively; see

Fig.

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