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# A matrix eigenvalue problem considers the vector equation

(2) Ax = x
Here A is a given square matrix, an unknown scalar, and
x an unknown vector.

The solutions to (1) are given the following names: The s
that satisfy (1) are called eigenvalues of A and the
corresponding nonzero xs 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

+ + =
+ + =
+ + =
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

+ + + =
+ + + =
+ + + =
In matrix notation,
(3)
By Cramers theorem, this homogeneous linear system of
equations has a solution if and only if the corresponding
determinant of the coefficients is zero:

(4)

( ) . = 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

= = =

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

+ =
=
1 1
2 2
5 2
;
2 2
x x
x x

( ( (
= =
( ( (

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 x = Ax Ix = (A I)x = 0,
which gives (3*).
1 2
1 2
( 5 ) 2 0
2 ( 2 ) 0
x x
x x

+ =
+ =
( ) 0 = A I x
(a) Eigenvalues.
We see that this is a homogeneous linear system. By
Cramers 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
1
= 1 and
2
=
6.
These are the eigenvalues of A.
(b
1
) Eigenvector of A corresponding to
1
. This vector is
obtained from (2*) with =
1
= 1, that is,

1 2
1 2
4 2 0
2 0.
x x
x x
+ =
=
Eigenvector of A corresponding to
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
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
( ( ( (
= = = = =
( ( ( (

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 = x. Since y = Ax,
this gives Ax = x, the equation of an eigenvalue problem.
In components, Ax = x is

(2) or

The characteristic equation is

(3)

1 2 1
1 2 2
5 3
3 5
x x x
x x x

+ =
+ =
1 2
1 2
(5 ) 3 0
3 (5 ) 0.
x x
x x

+ =
+ =
2
5 3
(5 ) 9 0.
3 5

= =

## Its solutions are

1
= 8 and
2
= 2. These are the
eigenvalues of our problem. For =
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
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
1
and *1 1+
T
corresponding to
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.