# NST

Mathematical basics for ’Fundamentals of
Electrical Engineering 1’
Prof. Roland Schmechel
Script by Lucas Bitzer
University of Duisburg-Essen
Institute for Nano Structures and Technology (NST)
Version 1.0
Contents
1 Introduction 3
2 Linear Algebra 4
2.1 Vectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
2.2 Coordinate systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.2.1 Cartesian coordinate system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.2.2 Polar coordinate system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.2.3 Cylindrical coordinate system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2.2.4 Spherical coordinate system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2.2.5 A note on unit vectors in the diﬀerent coordinate systems . . . . 9
2.3 The scalar product . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.4 The vector product . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
3 Vectoranalysis 18
3.1 The line Integral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
3.1.1 Vector ﬁelds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
3.1.2 Why are integrals needed? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
3.1.3 Conservative ﬁelds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
3.1.4 Example: Calculation of the work needed to move a charge in a
conservative force ﬁeld

F . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
3.2 The double integral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3.2.1 Introduction of the double integral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3.2.2 Some basic examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
3.3 The triple integral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
3.3.1 Introduction of the triple integral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
3.3.2 Example: Volume of a sphere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
1 Introduction
This mathematical summary shall provide the basic mathematical skills that are nec-
essary to understand the content of the course ’Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering
1’ (short: FEE1), read by Prof. Roland Schmechel. The script is not a substitute for
mathematical lectures, but shall create a practical understanding of the matter and give
the students tools to solve the typical problems of the course.
The mathematical content is based on a script of the course ’Mathematische Meth-
oden der Physik’, read by Prof. Karl-Heinz Lotze in Jena, Germany [1]. The author
greatfully thanks Prof. Lotze for providing his work as basic for the script presented.
Additionally, his script was created in LaTex by Simon St¨ utzer, who is thanked for
providing the script and his agreement to use his ﬁgures. Some illustrations were taken
and modiﬁed from the book ’Introductory Electromagnetics’ by Herbert P. Neﬀ, which
the author recommends for compact informations about vectors and coordinate systems
[2].
As this is the ﬁrst version of the mathematical script, suggestions for its improvement
are very welcome.
Lucas Bitzer
Duisburg in September 2012
3
2 Linear Algebra
2.1 Vectors
A displacement of space that moves every point of a considered area in the same direction
by a certain distance shall be considered a translation.
As all considered points of the area move the same distance in one direction, the
translation of all points is known if we know the displacement of one point, no matter
which point in space we choose. For example, imagine a box that you move one meter
to the right, without turning or rotating it. Then, every point in the box has been
subjected to the translation which is well known if the movement of one point of the
box is known.
To describe these movements mathematically we introduce the notion of a vector, for
example a. Vectors are deﬁned by their absolute value (or magnitude) |a| = a and their
direction, which is given by a unit vector e
a
that shares the same direction as a, but
has an absolute value of 1. Vectors can correspond to geometrical or physical quantities
such as translation, velocity, acceleration, force, current density, electric and magnetic
ﬁeld strength.
Every vector can be written as the product of its absolute value |a| = a and its unit
vector e
a
a = a · e
a
(2.1)
Transposed, the equation is resulting in the deﬁnition of the unit vector e
a
, that can
be calculated for every given vector:
e
a
=
a
a
, with |e
a
| = 1 (2.2)
´
In a coordinate system, a unit vector for every dimension is needed. Let us name
these vectors in a general 3-dimensional case e
1
, e
2
and e
3
. They are linear independent
from and always perpendicular to each other. In three-dimensional space, every vector
can be decomposed in 3 parts, which are dedicated to the 3 dimensions (unit vectors) of
the chosen coordinate system (see chapter 2.2 for the coordinate systems). In general,
a vector is then given by:
a =
_
_
a
1
a
2
a
3
_
_
=
_
_
a
1
0
0
_
_
+
_
_
0
a
2
0
_
_
+
_
_
0
0
a
3
_
_
= a
1
· e
1
+ a
2
· e
2
+ a
3
· e
3
. (2.3)
4
2.2 Coordinate systems
2.2 Coordinate systems
A coordinate system in three dimensions is deﬁned by three independent unit vectors,
called basis, spanning the space of the coordinate system in independent directions.
Every vector can be described as a linear combination of these vectors. We will discuss
four basic coordinate systems, that are commonly used in FEE. In some coordinate
systems, angles are used to describe points in 3- or 2-dimensional space. The careful
choice of the coordinate system can simplify a given task. The most important hint for
that choice gives the symmetry of the problem. For example, if the exercise is discussing
a spherical capacitor, the spherical coordinate system will be the best coordinate system
to calculate a solution.
2.2.1 Cartesian coordinate system
The commonly known cartesian coordinate system (sometimes: rectangular coordinate
system) is given by three axes x,y and z and their directions (see ﬁgure 2.1), deﬁned by
three unit vectors:
e
x
=
_
_
1
0
0
_
_
, e
y
=
_
_
0
1
0
_
_
, e
z
=
_
_
0
0
1
_
_
. (2.4)
Figure 2.1: Cartesian coordinate system with axes x,y and z with corresponding unit
vectors e
x
, e
y
and e
z
.
It is used for problems with cuboid geometry, for example a cuboid electrical conduc-
tor. The decomposition of a vector in cartesian coordinates can be seen in ﬁgure 2.2
and is written as
a =
_
_
a
x
a
y
a
z
_
_
=
_
_
a
x
0
0
_
_
+
_
_
0
a
y
0
_
_
+
_
_
0
0
a
z
_
_
= a
x
· e
x
+ a
y
· e
y
+ a
z
· e
z
, (2.5)
5
2.2.2 Polar coordinate system
where a
x
, a
y
und a
z
are called the coordinates of a. Compare this decomposition with
the general case in eqation 2.3.
Figure 2.2: Decomposition of a vector (a) in cartesian coordinates.
Properties of cartesian coordinates (Compare ﬁgure 2.2)
• a
z
= 0, if a is in the plane spanned by x and y
• The absolute value of a is given by
a = |a| =
_
a
2
x
+ a
2
y
+ a
2
z
(2.6)
• The unit vector e
a
corresponding to a vector a is given by
e
a
=
a
a
=
a
x
· e
x
+ a
y
· e
y
+ a
z
· e
z
_
a
2
x
+ a
2
y
+ a
2
z
(2.7)
2.2.2 Polar coordinate system
Imagine a vector called position vector r, that is connecting the origin of a given coor-
dinate system with a chosen point in space and has a direction and a length (see ﬁgure
2.3). It can thus be imagined as pointer inside the coordinate system.
Now, instead of the cartesian coordinates x, y and z, that vector is used to describe
a chosen point in space. Let us begin with the 2-dimensional case, where a plane is
described by the coordinates x and y. Then, a point P in the cartesian xy-plane can be
described by its polar coordinates : P(r, ϕ). The radius |r| = r represents the distance of
the point of interest to the point of origin, and the angle ϕ (Phi) describes the direction,
that can be computed by sin ϕ and cos ϕ.
6
2.2.3 Cylindrical coordinate system
Figure 2.3: Polar coordinate system with coordinates r and ϕ, and position vector r.
(modiﬁed from [1])
As it can be seen in ﬁgure 2.3, the polar to cartesian coordinates transformation
(x, y) ↔(r, ϕ) is given as
x = r cos ϕ
y = r sin ϕ (2.8)
Unit vectors:
e
r
, e
ϕ
(2.9)
Instead of the cartesian unit vectors e
x
and e
y
, the unit vectors e
r
and e
ϕ
are used in
polar coordinates. They are giving the direction of r and the rotational direction of ϕ.
2.2.3 Cylindrical coordinate system
One can further generalize polar coordinates by adding one more coordinate, so that
every point can be expressed in 3-dimensional space. One way to do that is by using
a cylindrical coordinate system, which adds a cartesian z-coordinate for the height of a
point above the 2-dimensional plane of polar coordinates. Notice, that r is the distance
to the z-axis and not longer the distance to point P.
7
2.2.4 Spherical coordinate system
Figure 2.4: Cylindrical coordinate system with coordinates r, ϕ and z.
To convert cylindrical to cartesian coordinates (3-dimensional!), it holds (x, y, z) ↔
(r, ϕ, z):
x = r cos ϕ
y = r sin ϕ
z = z (2.10)
Unit vectors:
e
r
, e
ϕ
, e
z
(2.11)
To the polar unit vectors, the cartesian unit vector e
z
2.2.4 Spherical coordinate system
Another way to adapt polar coordinates to 3-dimensional space is to add a further
direction by another angle as coordinate. This new angle describes the angle between
the xy-plane and the line that connects the point P with the origin (see ﬁgure 2.5). We
will call that angle ϑ [Theta]. A point P in space is then deﬁned by three coordinates
(r, ϑ, ϕ). Therebye, the radius r is not equal to the one of the polar coordinate system.
Notice that the radius in spherical coordinates is introduced as the distance from the
origin to the point of interest in the coordinate system, whereas the radius in polar
coordinates is always in a plane, parallel to the xy-plane. Therefore, we name the

is described for a certain angle ϑ, it holds:
r

= r sin ϑ (2.12)
8
2.2.5 A note on unit vectors in the diﬀerent coordinate systems
Figure 2.5: Spherical coordinates with coordinates r, ϕ and ϑ.
To convert spherical to cartesian coordinates (3-dimensional!), we can then use the
transformation from polar coordinates (equation 2.8) with the new radius r

(x, y, z) ↔
(r, ϕ, ϑ):
x = r

cos ϕ = r sin ϑcos ϕ
y = r

sin ϕ = r sin ϑsin ϕ
z = r cos ϑ (2.13)
Unit vectors:
e
r
, e
ϕ
, e
ϑ
(2.14)
To the polar unit vectors, the unit vector of the second angle, e
ϑ
2.2.5 A note on unit vectors in the diﬀerent coordinate systems
In ﬁgure 2.6, the unit vectors of the diﬀerent coordinate systems are shown. While the
unit vectors in cartesian coordinates are constant (see eq. 2.4), they can change direction
in the other so far mentioned coordinate systems. In case of cylindrical coordinates (b),
only e
z
stays constant, while the direction of e
r
and e
ϕ
are changing in diﬀerent points
P in space. The change can be expressed by their relation to the constant cartesian unit
vectors:
e
r
= cos ϕe
x
+ sin ϕe
y
e
ϕ
= −sin ϕe
x
+ cos ϕe
y
e
z
= e
z
(2.15)
9
2.2.5 A note on unit vectors in the diﬀerent coordinate systems
In spherical coordinates (c), all unit vectors change in space:
e
r
= sin ϑcos ϕe
x
+ sin ϑcos ϕe
y
+ cos ϑe
z
e
ϑ
= cos ϑcos ϕe
x
+ cos ϑsin ϕe
y
−sin ϑe
z
e
ϕ
= −sin ϕe
x
+ cos ϕe
y
(2.16)
Use the mentioned ’Right-hand-rule’ in section 2.4 to check if the unit vectors are
pointing in the correct direction.
Figure 2.6: Unit vectors in (a) cartesian, (b) cylindrical and (c) spherical coordinate
system. (modiﬁed from [2])
With this result in mind, the orthogonal surfaces where each coordinate is constant
are shown in ﬁgure 2.7. Imagine each unit vector orthogonal to the respective surfaces
where its dedicated coordinate is kept constant. It can be noticed, that the z = const.
plane of cartesian coordinates equals that plane in cylindrical coordinates. Furthermore,
ϕ = const. in cylindrical and spherical coordinates is the same, too. A unit vector can
therefore be used to describe the orientation of a plane in space, as the vector is pointing
always perpendicular to the described surface.
Other important properties of the unit vectors in coordinate systems can be found in
the examples of section 2.3 and 2.4.
10
2.3 The scalar product
Figure 2.7: Orthogonal surfaces in (a) cartesian, (b) cylindrical and (c) spherical co-
ordinate system. (modiﬁed from [1])
2.3 The scalar product
In this section we introduce the scalar product (or dot product), a method to multiply
two vectors. It is used for example in physics to calculate work. It is deﬁned as:
a ·

b = ab · cos(γ) = a
1
b
1
+ a
2
b
2
+ a
3
b
3
(2.17)
Where a and

b are vectors, a
1
, a
2
, a
3
and b
1
, b
2
, b
3
are their components and γ
[Gamma] is the given angle between the vectors a and

b (see ﬁgure 2.8).
The equation can also be read as:
cos γ =
a
a
·

b
b
(2.18)
It becomes clear, that the scalar product of two unit-vectors (
a
a
and

b
b
are unit-vectors)
equals the cosine of the angle between these vectors.
Properties of the scalar product
• It is the product of two vectors, but the result is a scalar number
• It is commutative, which means:
a ·

b =

b · a (2.19)
• It is not associative, which means:
a(

bc) = (a

b)c, (2.20)
11
2.3 The scalar product
Figure 2.8: Multiplication of two vectors a and

b by the scalar product. The vector c
is deﬁned as c =a −

b, the angle γ is measured between a and

b.
as a(

bc) gives a vector with the same direction as a, whereas (a

b)c gives a vector
with the same direction as c
• The absolute value of a vector can be expressed by the scalar product. Let’s
assume a vector that is multiplicated by himself:
a · a = a
2
> 0
⇒|a| = a =

a · a (2.21)
• The scalar product is zero for perpendicular orientated vectors a ⊥

b, which means
γ =
π
2
( ´ =90

):
a ·

b = ab cos
_
π
2
_
= ab · 0 = 0 (2.22)
Mathematical proof of the scalar product To justify the deﬁnition of the scalar
product, the ﬁrst step is to derive a mathematical expression for the angle between the
two vectors a and

b.
In ﬁgure 2.8, three vectors are given by the relation
c =a −

b.
Additionally, the trigonometrical law of cosines is deﬁned as:
c
2
= a
2
+ b
2
−2ab · cos γ.
A combination of equations 2.23 and 2.24 results in
|a −

b|
2
= a
2
+ b
2
−2ab · cos γ
⇒2ab · cos γ = a
2
−b
2
−|a −

b|
2
(with eq. 2.6) = (a
2
1
+ a
2
2
+ a
2
3
) + (b
2
1
+ b
2
2
+ b
2
3
)
−(a
1
−b
1
)
2
−(a
2
−b
2
)
2
−(a
3
−b
3
)
2
⇒ab · cos γ = a
1
b
1
+ a
2
b
2
+ a
3
b
3
=a ·

b
which is the deﬁnition of the scalar product a ·

b introduced in the beginning of this
section.
12
2.4 The vector product
Example Scalar product of unit vectors.
For all coordinate systems, it holds that the scalar product of diﬀerent unit vectors
is zero, and the scalar product for identical unit vectors is 1. This result is shown in
cartesian coordinates for the following table:
· e
x
e
y
e
z
e
x
1 0 0
e
y
0 1 0
e
z
0 0 1
You can check that table by calculating the scalar product (equation 2.17) for the
cartesian unit vectors (equation 2.4).
2.4 The vector product
Another product of vectors is the vector product (or cross product). It can be represented
by the determinant of a formal 3-dimensional matrix in cartesian coordinates (compare
unit vectors in eq. 2.4):

b =
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
e
x
e
y
e
z
a
1
a
2
a
3
b
1
b
2
b
3
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
= (a
2
b
3
−a
3
b
2
)e
x
+(a
3
b
1
−a
1
b
3
)e
y
+(a
1
b
2
−a
2
b
1
)e
z
=
_
_
a
2
b
3
−a
3
b
2
a
3
b
1
−a
1
b
3
a
1
b
2
−a
2
b
1
_
_
(2.25)
For solving the determinant of a 3-dim matrix, please have a look at the ’Rule of
Sarrus’.
Example Vector product of two given vectors in cartesian coordinates
_
_
6
5
4
_
_
×
_
_
1
2
3
_
_
=
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
e
x
e
y
e
z
6 5 3
1 2 3
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
= (5 · 3 −4 · 2)e
x
+ (4 · 1 −6 · 3)e
y
+ (6 · 2 −5 · 1)e
z
= 7e
x
−14e
y
+ 7e
z
=
_
_
7
−14
7
_
_
Properties of the vector product
• The vector product returns a vector, the scalar product in contrast returns a scalar
number
• Right-hand rule: When taking the vector product of two vectors in a plane, you
can use the right hand rule to determine its direction. The ﬁngers just have to be
pointed in the following directions:
13
2.4 The vector product
• It is not commutative:
a ×

b =

b ×a (2.26)
This can be easily shown by the right hand rule. When changing the order of the
vectors, your middle ﬁnger points in the opposite direction: a×

b = −

b×a, so a×

b =

b ×a
• It is not associative:
a ×(

b ×c) = (a ×

b) ×c (2.27)
That can be seen in the following example. If c =a ×

b, then
a ×(a ×

b) =a ×c = −

b
but (a ×a) ×

b = 0.
So, the result is not the same ⇒ not associative!
• It is distributive:
(a +

b) ×c =a ×c +

b ×c (2.28)
• Geometric interpretation of the vector products absolute value (from [1]):
⇒The absolute value of the scalar product is given by the area of the parallelogram
spanned by a and

b:
c = |c| = |a ×

b| = ab sin ϑ (2.29)
14
2.4 The vector product
• Parallel properties: If the vectors are aligned parallel or anti-parallel, no parallel-
ogram is spanned and the vector product will be zero.
Parallel vectors: a ↑↑

b, so that ϑ = 0
Anti-parallel vectors: a ↑↓

b, so that ϑ = π
_
a ×

b = 0. (2.30)
Note that the special case of

b =a is included in the parallel case, and results in
a ×a =

0 (2.31)
Example 1 A concrete problem from physics...
The vector product has applications in physics, for example to calculate rotatory motion
or torque. It proves helpful in the answer of the following question, which shall motivate
the introduction of the vector product.
Figure 2.9: The earth. The radius vector r is connecting the earth’s origin with point
P on the surface, where the linear velocity is v. The earth’s rotation is given by the
angular velocity ω. The radius r

is the distance of point P to the z-axis. (modiﬁed
from [1])
Question: What is the linear velocity of a point P on the earth’s surface resulting
from earth’s rotation (see ﬁgure 2.9)?
To phrase this problem mathematically, the center of the earth is set in the point
of origin of our spherical coordinate system. Then, a point P on the earth’s surface is
described by the radius vector r, which conncects point P with the center of the earth.
The earth’s rotation is given by a vector of angular velocity ω, with an absolute value of
| ω| = ω =

T
and the periode time of one complete rotation T. The direction of ω is the
axis of rotation, so that looking down from the tip of ω, we rotate counter-clockwise.
The angle ϑ is given as (r, w) = ϑ = (90

−latitude).
15
2.4 The vector product
As P moves on a circle of latitude with radius r

, the velocity on the radius will be
v = r

· ω (2.32)
|r| = r and r

are connected by the angle ϑ:
r

= r · sin ϑ (2.33)
By combining both equations, the result of the absolut value of the vector product of ω
and r can be obtained (compare equation 2.29):
v = rω · sin ϑ = | ω ×r| = |v| (2.34)
The velocity v is by deﬁniton of the vector product perpendicular to ω and r.
Example 2 Unit vectors
Unit vectors in a coordinate system are always perpendicular orientated, as they have
to be independent from each other (compare section 2.2 and ﬁgure 2.6). Therefore, the
vector product of unit vectors is either one for diﬀerent unit vectors, or zero for equal
unit vectors.
Expressed in cartesian coordinates:
e
x
×e
x
= e
y
×e
y
= e
z
×e
z
= 0
e
x
×e
y
= e
z
e
y
×e
z
= e
x
e
z
×e
x
= e
y
. (2.35)
Summed up in tabular form we get:
× e
x
e
y
e
z
e
x
0 e
z
-e
y
e
y
-e
z
0 e
x
e
z
e
y
−e
x
0
Here, the vector in the column on the left is the one that is the ﬁrst vector in the vector
product. Please compare these results with the ones for unit vector scalar products in
section 2.3.
These results are the same for all the other coordinate systems (see ﬁgure 2.6. In
cylindrical coordinates:
e
r
×e
r
= e
ϕ
×e
ϕ
= e
z
×e
z
= 0
e
r
×e
ϕ
= e
z
e
ϕ
×e
z
= e
r
e
z
×e
r
= e
ϕ
. (2.36)
16
2.4 The vector product
And in spherical coordinates:
e
r
×e
r
= e
ϕ
×e
ϕ
= e
ϑ
×e
ϑ
= 0
e
r
×e
ϑ
= e
ϕ
e
ϑ
×e
ϕ
= e
r
e
ϕ
×e
r
= e
ϑ
. (2.37)
Simple proof With the properties of the cartesian unit vectors (see equation 2.35),
the vector product (eq. 2.25) can be shown. Inserting the vectors a and

b in cartesian
coordinates (eq. 2.5):
c =a ×

b = (a
1
e
x
+ a
2
e
y
+ a
3
e
z
) ×(b
1
e
x
+ b
2
e
y
+ b
3
e
z
) (2.38)
Then, the distributivity (see eq. 2.28) of the vector product is used:
c =a
1
b
1
(e
x
×e
x
) + a
1
b
2
(e
x
×e
y
) + a
1
b
3
(e
x
×e
z
)
+ a
2
b
1
(e
y
×e
x
) + a
2
b
2
(e
y
×e
y
) + a
2
b
3
(e
y
×e
z
)
+ a
3
b
1
(e
z
×e
x
) + a
3
b
2
(e
z
×e
y
) + a
3
b
3
(e
z
×e
z
)
with the table for the unit vector vector products, this results in the deﬁnition of the
vector product:
c = (a
2
b
3
−a
3
b
2
)e
x
+ (a
3
b
1
−a
1
b
3
)e
y
+ (a
1
b
2
−a
2
b
1
)e
z
=
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
e
x
e
y
e
z
a
1
a
2
a
3
b
1
b
2
b
3
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
(2.39)
17
3 Vectoranalysis
In the following chapter, one- two- and three-dimensional integrals that are important
for solving exercises in FEE1 will be discussed in the diﬀerent coordinate systems.
3.1 The line Integral
3.1.1 Vector ﬁelds
Most electrical quantities have a direction and an absolute value, as for example the
electric ﬁeld

E, that is acting on a charge in a deﬁned direction. Therefore, these
quantities are given as vectors (compare section 2.1). To describe such a quantity
in space and in a coordinate system, every point P in space (for example (x, y, z) in
cartesian coordinates) has his own vector of the quantity, and the function

E(x, y, z) is
then called vector ﬁeld or in that speciﬁc case electrical ﬁeld.
3.1.2 Why are integrals needed?
Imagine a point charge that is moved along an arbitrary pathway in three-dimensional
cartesian coordinate space (see ﬁgure 3.1(a)). This point charge can be subject to forces,
for example an electrical force

F
el
(x, y, z) (3.1)
which has a dedicated vector for each point (x, y, z) in space.
Question: What amount of work is needed to move a point charge Q in the electrical
ﬁeld from point a to point b on a given path or line (see ﬁgure 3.1(a))?
The integral is needed to give an answer: The amount of work to move the charge
along a deﬁned pathway from a to b can be calculated by the line integral of the electrical
force

F
el
along that way:
W =
b
_
a

F
el
ds (3.2)
Where ds can be thought as an elementary or inﬁnitesimal length of the total pathway
s. The integral sums up these inﬁnitesimally small parts multiplied with the function
term. In general, the result of integration can be diﬀerent for diﬀerent pathways as
shown in ﬁgure 3.1(a) and 3.1(b), even if the points a and b stay the same.
18
3.1.3 Conservative ﬁelds
(a) Movement on random pathway (b) Movement on straight pathway
Figure 3.1: Line of movement between two points a and b in a vector ﬁeld
cartesian cylindrical spherical
ds dx e
x
, dy e
y
, dz e
z
dr e
r
, rdϕ e
ϕ
, dz e
z
dr e
r
, r sin ϑ dϑe
ϑ
, rdϕ e
ϕ
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Table 3.1: Possible simple line elements for the line integration on simple pathways in
diﬀerent coordinate systems (compare ﬁgure 3.2).
3.1.3 Conservative ﬁelds
A ﬁeld is named a conservative ﬁeld, if the result of the integration stays the same
for every possible pathway. Or in other words: The line integration overevery closed
pathway in a conservative ﬁeld

F is always zero:
_

Fds = 0 (3.3)
Fortunately, the vector ﬁelds treated in FEE1 are only conservative ﬁelds. The path-
way of integration ds in eq. 3.2 can therefore be chosen as simple as possible, for example
as a straight line between the two points (see ﬁgure 3.1(b)). In most cases, it is chosen
along the axes directions of the coordinate system, and the coordinate system has to be
chosen carefully to ﬁt the given geometry of the problem. To integrate alonge these axes,
the basic line elements ds = ds · e
s
are needed, and listed in table 3.1. The direction of
ds is given by the unit vector of the respective coordinate of integration (for example:
dx = dx · e
x
). Note that for simplicity reasons, the elements for polar coordinates are
not listed, as they equal those for cylindrical coordinates. To get a graphical impression
of these elements, see ﬁgure 3.2.
19
3.1.4 Example: Calculation of the work needed to move a charge in a conservative
force ﬁeld

F
Figure 3.2: Simple line elements for line integration in (a) cartesian, (b) cylindrical
and (c) spherical coordinates (modiﬁed from [2])
3.1.4 Example: Calculation of the work needed to move a charge
in a conservative force ﬁeld

F
This example was taken from [2]: Given is the force ﬁeld

F(x, y, z) = (2y, 2x, z), as well
as the startpoint a = (0, 0, 1) and the endpoint b = (2, 4, 1) of the movement.
The work is calculated as deﬁned in equation 3.2:
W =
b
_
a

Fds =
b
_
a
_
_
2y
2x
z
_
_
ds (3.4)
As the force ﬁeld is conservative (see equation 3.3), the result of integration is not de-
pending on the pathway of integration. We calculate in cartesian coordinates, therefore
the line elements can be extracted from table 3.1. With them, the path of integration
can be separated in three parts, related to the respective axis:
W = W
x
+ W
y
+ W
z
=
x
1
_
x
0

Fds
x
+
y
1
_
y
0

Fds
y
+
z
1
_
z
0

Fds
z
=
x
1
_
x
0
_
_
2y
2x
z
_
_
·
_
_
dx
0
0
_
_
+
y
1
_
y
0
_
_
2y
2x
z
_
_
·
_
_
0
dy
0
_
_
+
z
1
_
z
0
_
_
2y
2x
z
_
_
·
_
_
0
0
dz
_
_
Solving the scalar product of the vectors and inserting the respective integration limits
gives:
W =
2
_
0
2ydx +
4
_
0
2xdy +
1
_
1
zdz (3.5)
20
3.2 The double integral
Figure 3.3: Diﬀerent pathways: straight line, parabolic line and separated pathway along
the cartesian axes. (modiﬁed from [2])
Notice that the integral is now split up in three basic integrations. Furthermore, the
z-integration is zero because of identical upper and lower limit. Imagine the integrations
as integrating along the speciﬁc coordinate axis, see ﬁgure 3.3. For the ﬁrst integral,
the integration is along the x-axis, therefore all other coordinates are set constant, and
it holds: x = x, y = 0, z = 1. For the second integral, the integration is along the y-axis
and it holds: x = 2, y = y, z = z. It follows:
W =
2
_
0
0dx +
4
_
0
2 · 2dy + 0 =
4
_
0
4dy = 4 · 4 = 16(J). (3.6)
As the ﬁeld is a conservative ﬁeld, this result is true for all possible pathways (some
are given in ﬁgure 3.3). This calculation principle can be transfered to cylindrical and
spherical coordinates.
Task: Calculate the work between the two points in cylindrical coordinates, use the
geometry of that system with its line elements and a pathway that is going radially and
circular along the cylindrical axes (see ﬁgure 3.4). You should get the same solution as
in cartesian coordinates.
3.2 The double integral
3.2.1 Introduction of the double integral
In the following, cartesian coordinates are used to derive the double integral. It is already
known that the deﬁnite integral from a to b measures the area between a function f(x),
the x-axis and the two parallels to the y-axis at the points a and b, as it can be seen in
ﬁgure 3.5.
21
3.2.1 Introduction of the double integral
Figure 3.4: Prefered pathway in cylindrical coordinates. (modiﬁed from [2])
Figure 3.5: The value of a one-dimensional integration can be seen als the area A
between function f(x) and x-axis. (from [1])
The integral can be seen as ’base × height’, where the height f(x) is dependent from
the value on the x-axis.
A =
_
b
a
f(x) dx (3.7)
In another possible form of the integral, the ’height’ f(x) itself is already the result
of an integration. This means that f(x) is a summation of path elements in direction
y:
f(x) =
_
f(x)
0
dy = y
¸
¸
¸
¸
¸
f(x)
0
(3.8)
22
3.2.2 Some basic examples
cartesian cylindrical spherical
ds dx e
x
, dy e
y
, dz e
z
dr e
r
, rdϕ e
ϕ
, dz e
z
dr e
r
, r sin ϑ dϑe
ϑ
, rdϕ e
ϕ
d

A dxdy e
z
, rdrdϕ e
z
, r sin ϑdϑdr e
ϕ
,
dxdz e
y
, drdz e
ϕ
, rdϕdr e
ϑ
,
dydz e
x
rdϕdz e
r
r
2
sinϑdϑdϕ e
r
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Table 3.2: Line elements ds and possible area elements d

A. Area elements are multi-
plications of two line elements in the respective coordinate system. Therefore, three
diﬀerent basic area elements are possible in every coordinate system.
The double integral in cartesian coordinates can then be deﬁned as:
A =
x=b
_
x=a
_
_
y=f(x)
_
y=0
dy
_
_
dx =
x=b
_
x=a
y=f(x)
_
y=0
dy dx (3.9)
To put the upper equation in words: If we want to determine the area of a certain
2-dimensional ﬁgure, we ﬁll it with inﬁnitely small area-segments. These segments are
spanned by two inﬁnitely small line segments. We encountered those already with the
line integral. All the while we have to keep in mind the limits of the area we want to
determine (which appear here as integration limits).
In a more general form independent of the coordinate system, the area of a certain
geometry is then given by:
A =
_ _
1dA (3.10)
where dA is the inﬁnitesimal area element, that is spanned by two line elements of the
respective coordinate system. An area element d

A is deﬁned by an absolute value (size
of the area) and a unit vector e
A
that is perpendicular orientated to the surface of
the area. In every coordinate system, three diﬀerent combinations of line elements are
possible to form a basic area element (see table 3.2).
3.2.2 Some basic examples
The following examples illustrate that the choice of a coordinate system can make the
task of integration easier or harder, depending on the geometry we have to deal with.
A rectangular area in cartesian coordinates The area A of a rectangle shall be
calculated by a double integration (see ﬁgure3.6).
23
3.2.2 Some basic examples
Figure 3.6: Use of double integraton to calculate the rectangular area A (from [1])
A =
_
b
y=0
_
a
x=0
dxdy =
_
b
y=0
a dy = a · b (3.11)
The result is not surprising, as it is the area of a rectangle with the sidelengths a and
b. If we start the integration with the other coordinate:
A =
_
a
x=0
_
b
y=0
dydx =
_
a
x=0
b dx = b · a (3.12)
the result is identical. Even
A =
__
a
0
dx
_
·
__
b
0
dy
_
= a · b (3.13)
is not changing the result.
The change of order of integration was possible because for both variables (x and y)
the integration limits are constants. We could even write the integration as the product
of two integrations. If the limits itself contain variables, the order of integration is
important.
This example illustrates that cartesian coordinates are well suited for rectan-
gular geometries.
A circular area in cartesian coordinates As can be seen in ﬁgure 3.7, a circle can be
described by: x
2
+y
2
= r
2
. If we integrate in the limits from −r < x < r, then a single
integral, together with the function f(x) is obtaining the asked area A. This equation
results in two solutions for y = f(x) = ±

r
2
−x
2
, where every solution is the function
for a half circle. Therefore, the area A can be expressed as 2 times the area of half a
circle.
A = 2
_
r
−r
f(x)dx = 2
_
r
−r

r
2
−x
2
dx = 4
_
r
0

r
2
−x
2
dx
= 4 ·
1
2
_
x

r
2
−x
2
+ r
2
arcsin
_
x
r
__¸
¸
r
0
= 2r
2
arcsin 1 = 2r
2
·
π
2
= πr
2
(3.14)
24
3.2.2 Some basic examples
The result is the well known area of a circle. Another way is to integrate with a double
integral: integration limits shall now be −r ≤ x ≤ r and −

r
2
−x
2
≤ y ≤

r
2
−x
2
,
where the y-limits depends on the x-value:
A =
_
r
x=−r
_

r
2
−x
2
y=−

r
2
−x
2
dydx (3.15)
Figure 3.7: Use of double integration to ﬁnd the area A of a circle. (from [1])
It is now important to perform the integration in y direction ﬁrst, as the result includes
the integration-variable x. That results in
A = 2 ·
_
r
x=−r

r
2
−x
2
dx (3.16)
and can be solved according to equation 3.14 that was derived geometrically with
ﬁgure 3.7.
A circular area in polar coordinates The comparison of the two previous examples
illustrates, that the area of a rectangle is easier to determine, since the integration vari-
ables are independent from one another and the integration limits are simply constants.
The reason for this is the shared symmetry of the rectangular dxdy-elements in cartesian
coordinates and the rectangular area itself.
To make our life easier we now want to deﬁne inﬁnitely small area elements that are
better suited to the geometry of the circle. Looking back to section 2.2, the assumption
can be made that polar coordinates (or cylindrical coordinates with z = const.) are the
right way to achieve this easy integration (see ﬁgure 3.8). For that integration, the line
elements in polar coordinates are needed (see table 3.1).
25
3.3 The triple integral
Figure 3.8: Circle in polar coordinates. Compare the line elements to ﬁgure 3.2 (b) -
they are the same. (from [1])
We deduce from the ﬁgure the inﬁnitesimal area element dA (the red, ﬁlled area),
that is a multiplication of the elementary line elements:
dA = dr · rdϕ = rdrdϕ (3.17)
What is the part of the circular ring between the radius r and r + dr and limited by
the angle dϕ, and in principle well known (see table 3.2). To distinct the integration,
the radius r = R shall be the outer radius of the circle, and r shall be the coordinate.
Now we can try to solve the integral by the help of this element.
A =
_
r=R
r=0
_

ϕ=0
r drdϕ =
_
_
r=R
r=0
r dr
_
·
_
_

ϕ=0

_
=
r
2
2
· 2π = πR
2
(3.18)
The eﬀect of the polar coordinates is very similar to the cartesian coordinates and the
rectangular area. The solution is the same as in eq. 3.14 (except for the notation r = R),
but the calculation is simpliﬁed.
3.3 The triple integral
3.3.1 Introduction of the triple integral
After having treated 1- and 2-dimensional elements, we want to have a look at the
3-dimensional space. As introduction of the triple integral, the example of measuring
the volume of a sphere in case of cartesian coordinates is used. Analogously to the
case of areas, the ’height’ z(x, y) above the xy-plane can be interpreted as the result
of an integration, with the function of a half sphere z(x, y) = ±
_
R
2
−x
2
−y
2
used as
integration limit:
z(x, y) =
_

R
2
−x
2
−y
2

R
2
−x
2
−y
2
dz. (3.19)
26
3.3.2 Example: Volume of a sphere
cartesian cylindrical spherical
ds dx e
x
, dy e
y
, dz e
z
dr e
r
, rdϕ e
ϕ
, dz e
z
dr e
r
, r sin ϑ dϑe
ϑ
, rdϕ e
ϕ
d

A dxdy e
z
, rdrdϕ e
z
, r sin ϑdϑdr e
ϕ
,
dxdz e
y
, drdz e
ϕ
, rdϕdr e
ϑ
,
dydz e
x
rdϕdz e
r
r
2
sinϑdϑdϕ e
r
dV dxdydz rdrdϕdz rdϑr sin ϑ
. ¸¸ .
r

dϕdr
Table 3.3: Summary: inﬁnitesimal line elements ds, area elements d

A and volume
elements dV in the respective coordinate system.
The volume of the sphere is then (without a factor 2, that once again is the result of
symmetry)
V =
R
_
x=−R

R
2
−x
2
_
y=−

R
2
−x
2

R
2
−x
2
−y
2
_
z=−

R
2
−x
2
−y
2
dzdydx (3.20)
with R as radius of the sphere.
If the integration is performed, it is necessary to integrate in the right order, as the
limits are depending on other variables.
V =
_
R
x=−R
_

R
2
−x
2
y=−

R
2
−x
2
2
_
R
2
−x
2
−y
2
dydx
= 2
_
R
x=−R
2
1
2
_
y
_
R
2
−x
2
−y
2
+ (R
2
−x
2
) arcsin
y

R
2
−x
2
_

R
2
−x
2
0
dx
= 4
_
R
x=0
(R
2
−x
2
)
π
2
dx = 2π
_
R
2
x −
1
3
x
3
_
¸
¸
¸
R
0
=
4
3
πR
3
(3.21)
The triple integral can be interpreted similarly to the double integral case. To deter-
mine the volume of a certain body, we ﬁll it with inﬁnitely small volume elements dV (in
cartesian case: dV = dxdydz) which are a multiplication of all three independent line
elements in the respective coordinate system - see table 3.3 for other volume elements.
These elements are then summed up in the limits of the body. Therfore, the general
deﬁnition of a triple integral (volume) is given as:
V =
_ _ _
dV (3.22)
3.3.2 Example: Volume of a sphere
In cartesian coordinates, the problem of the circle (compare section 3.2.2)repeats itself
in case of a sphere: The integration limits can vary and are not independent. Looking
back at how this problem was solved in the case of the circle, the solution to this problem
lies once again in the right coordinate system. By choosing spherical coordinates, the
integration can be simpliﬁed (see ﬁgure 3.9).
27
3.3.2 Example: Volume of a sphere
Figure 3.9: Volume element in spherical coordinates. (modiﬁed from [1])
The volume element dV can be derived from the ﬁgure. For the base, it holds:
rdϑ · r sin ϑdϕ (3.23)
Together with the height dr this results in the volume element given in table 3.3.
dV = r
2
dr · sin ϑdϑ · dϕ (3.24)
Then, the volume of the sphere can be calculated, starting from the deﬁnition in
equation 3.22:
V =
_ _ _
dV =
R
_
0
π
_
0
a dϑ
2·π
_
0
r
2
dr · sin ϑdϑ · dϕ =
R
_
0
r
2
dr
π
_
0
sin ϑ dϑ
2·π
_
0
dϕ (3.25)
The integration limits are chosen in a way that every point of the sphere appears only
once in the integration. So the volume of the sphere is
V =
R
3
3
(−cos ϑ)
¸
¸
¸
¸
π
0
· 2π =

3
R
3
(3.26)
This calculation was a lot easier than in cartesian coordinates (compare equation 3.21)
as they are not suited to the spherical geometry.
Another concrete image of spherical coordinates is that they can be seen as polar
coordinates
x = (r sin ϑ) cos ϕ, y = (r sin ϑ) sin ϕ (3.27)