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Tensor Notation (Basics)

Divergence Theorem

Introduction

key strength of tensor notation is its ability to represent

systems of equations with a single tensor equation. This

makes it possible to recognize relationships among tensor

terms, and manipulate them, that would otherwise be nearly

impossible to do using matrix notation.

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Axis Variables

The Kronecker Delta is related to the derivatives of coordinate

axis variables with respect to themselves. Start with an x,y,z coordinate system and ask, "What are

x

x

, and

?" The answers are simple: 1, 0, and 0. Also,

y

z

y

=0

x

And similarly, the derivatives of

y

=1

y

x

,

x

y

=0

z

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z

=0

x

z

=0

y

z

=1

z

At this point, the pattern should be obvious. It can all be summarized in tensor notation as

xi

= xi,j = ij

xj

Example

The relationship between the Kronecker delta and derivatives of coordinates can be seen in the

following example. First, recall that a derivative such as dy/dx represents ynew yold divided

by xnew xold . Next start at some reference point, say (2, 5, 9). This is the "old" point. Now

change the x coordinate by 1 from 2 to 3, the "new" value. So xnew xold = 1 .

But nothing has changed the y value, so it is still equal to 5. (Note that the coordinates are

independent, so y is not required to change just because x did.) So

ynew yold = 5 5 = 0 and dy/dx = 0 .

In contrast, dx/dx

= (3 2)/(3 2) = 1 .

dxi

Clearly dx

j

= xi,j = ij .

The Kronecker Delta is nicknamed the substitution operator because of the following simple property of

multiplication, best explained by example. Multiplying vi by ij gives

vi ij = v1 1j + v2 2j + v3 3j

where the i subscript has been automatically summed from 1 to 3 because it appeared twice in the term,

once in vi and once in ij .

Now arbitrarily select a value for j , say j

= 3 . This gives

vi i3 = v1 13 + v2 23 + v3 33 = v3

The result is simply v3 (the value chosen for j) because 33 = 1 while 13 = 23 =

will always equal vj for whatever value is selected for j . Therefore, the general rule is

0. In general, vi ij

vi ij = vj

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The rule applies regardless of the complexity of the term. Recall the vector cross-product term ijk j rk .

Multiply it by im for example.

im ijk j rk

It has the sole effect of substituting

mjk j rk

Scalar Equations

It is very important to be able to recognize the rank of any tensor term. Quantities such as vi,i , ai bi ,

Aij Bij , and ij ij are all scalar terms in fact, which also means they would be part of a single scalar

equation. For example, the strain energy density, W , of a linear elastic material is a scalar quantity given

by

W=

1

ij ij

2

Although there are several subscripts in the equation, they all expand out (all sum from 1 to 3) because

each letter occurs exactly twice. This is amplified by the fact that on the left hand side (LHS) of the

equation, W is undeniably a scalar because it has no subscript(s) at all.

Vector Equations

A simple vector equation is the cross product of an angular rotation vector,

obtain the velocity vector, vi . (Yes, this is just v = r .)

vi = ijk j rk

This very small tensor equation represents so much. For starters, it represents three equations, not one,

because the vi term shows clearly that there is an equation for each i = 1, 2, and 3. Second, each of the

three equations contains nine terms because j and k both sum to three. However, we've already seen here

that ijk is zero in most terms, leaving

v1 = 2 r3 3 r2

v2 = 3 r1 1 r3

v3 = 1 r2 2 r1

That is a lot packed into one small tensor equation. Of course, v

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equations as well, except that the subscripts in the tensor equation explicitly lead one to the three

component equations.

It is important to recognize that tensor notation often provides the freedom to write any tensor term in many

forms. In this case, alternative examples include

vi = j ijk rk

vi = rk ijk j

vi = rk j ijk

vk = ijk i rj

All are equivalent, and technically correct, because the multiplication details are dictated by the subscripts,

not the order of the factors. However, it is customary for readability considerations to write ijk first in a

term, and write the remaining factors in approximately the same order they would appear in vector or matrix

notation. This leads to the original form of vi = ijk j rk as being preferred.

It is also important to recognize forms that are incorrect, and why. One incorrect form is vm = ijk j rk .

This is wrong because the free indices on the two sides of the equation are different: m on the LHS and i

on the RHS. While one might guess the author's intent in such a case, such a mismatch of free indices

should be avoided.

A similar bad form is the addition of ai

A second incorrect form is vi

term.

= ijj j rj . This is wrong because j appears more than twice in the RHS

A very common 2nd order tensor equation is Hooke's Law, relating stress to strain in linear elastic

materials. It is written in matrix notation as

1

[(1 + ) I tr()]

E

is the strain tensor,

E is the elastic modulus,

is Poisson's ratio,

I is the identity matrix,

tr(...) is the trace of a tensor, in this case, 11 + 22 + 33

Hooke's Law is written in tensor notation as

ij =

1

[(1 + )ij ij kk ]

E

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This shows clearly that each term is 2nd rank because of the i and j indices. Note that kk is just a scalar

quantity because k is summed from 1 to 3 since it appears twice. So kk is the trace of . Another key

insight is that the entire ij kk term is nonzero only when i = j . This corresponds to the normal

stresses and strains and is the classic Poisson's Effect. On the other hand, the entire term is zero when

i j because of the presence of ij .

Writing all the matrices out gives

11

21

31

12

22

32

13

11

1

(1 + ) 21

23 =

E

33

31

12

22

32

13

1

23 (11 + 22 + 33 ) 0

0

33

0

1

0

So what are the individual component equations represented by the tensor notation equation, and how

many are there? Since there are two free indices, there would normally be 3 3 = 9 equations. But it

turns out that all terms are symmetric in Hooke's Law, so there are only six independent equations. They

are initially

11 =

1

[(1 + )11 (11 + 22 + 33 )]

E

12 =

1

[(1 + )12 ]

E

22 =

1

[(1 + )22 (11 + 22 + 33 )]

E

13 =

1

[(1 + )13 ]

E

33 =

1

[(1 + )33 (11 + 22 + 33 )]

E

23 =

1

[(1 + )23 ]

E

11 =

1

[11 (22 + 33 )]

E

12 =

(1 + )

12

E

22 =

1

[22 (11 + 33 )]

E

13 =

(1 + )

13

E

33 =

1

[33 (11 + 22 )]

E

23 =

(1 + )

23

E

Again, this is an amazing amount of information packed into a single tensor equation.

For anyone diving directly into this page here, note that 12 , 13 , and 23 are one-half of the

normal shear quantities, i.e., 12 = 12 /2 .

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So far, tensor notation has not actually provided any capabilities beyond matrix notation. After all,

the matrix form of Hooke's Law does contain all the same information that is available in the

tensor equation. However, the great power of tensor notation over matrix notation becomes

evident when one starts to manipulate tensor equations. The example here will demonstrate how

to invert Hooke's Law from strain-as-a-function-of-stress to stress-as-a-function-of-strain. Such

an inversion is all but impossible using matrix notation.

Returning to the fundamental equation...

ij =

It is easy to solve for

ij

1

[(1 + )ij ij kk ]

E

to get

ij =

1

[E ij + ij kk ]

(1 + )

But there is a problem, a major problem. There is still a stress term, kk , on the RHS that must

be resolved. It cannot be combined with ij on the LHS because they are different animals. ij

is an individual component of the stress tensor, kk is the trace of the stress tensor,

(11 + 22 + 33 ).

This hurdle is overcome in a couple steps by first multiplying the equation through (both sides of

course) by ij as follows.

ij ij =

1

[E ij ij + ij ij kk ]

(1 + )

At this point, several advanced properties of tensor notation kick in. First, note that the entire

equation has been transformed from a 2nd rank tensor equation to a scalar equation because

there are no longer any free indices. Each term now has i and j occurring twice in it, so both are

automatically summed from 1 to 3.

Second, the terms containing ij ij and ij ij can be simplified by recalling the substitution

property of the Kronecker Delta. Since ij = 1 only when i = j , then

ij ij = ii = jj = 11 + 22 + 33

and

ij ij = ii = jj = 11 + 22 + 33

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jj

and jj .

ij ij = ii = 11 + 22 + 33 = 1 + 1 + 1 = 3

So the now-scalar equation reduces to

jj =

1

[E jj + 3 kk ]

(1 + )

It's now time for another round of insight into tensor notation. Note that jj and kk are in fact

equal because both expand to 11 + 22 + 33 . So they can be combined. The jj is simply

rewritten as kk , producing

kk =

1

[E jj + 3 kk ]

(1 + )

Now the kk terms on the LHS and RHS can be combined to obtain

kk =

E jj

(1 2)

ij =

1

[E ij + ij kk ]

(1 + )

to obtain

ij =

[ij +

ij jj ]

(1 + )

(1 2)

Except this is incorrect because j now appears three times in the last term. But the solution is

simple. Simply rewrite jj as kk . This is completely acceptable because both forms expand out

to give the same trace of the strain tensor.

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ij =

[ij +

ij kk ]

(1 + )

(1 2)

And we are finally done. It wasn't easy, but by comparison it seems absolutely impossible (at

least to me) to pull this off using matrix notation.

So what happened? The example is typical of equations that contain tensors occurring in two different

forms. In this case, the two different forms were ij and kk . The first is a component of the stress tensor

while the second is the trace of the same stress tensor. (Both involve the same stress tensor, but they are

in fact different quantities.) When this occurs, the usual procedure is to multiply the equation through by

ij .

The second key aspect of the example was the demonstrated freedom to change indices when they occur

twice. This is because any indices occurring twice are automatically expanded out so it does not matter

what letter they are. This was demonstrated by changing jj to kk and kk to jj during the example.

Epsilon-Delta Identity

The alternating tensor and the Kronecker delta are related to each other through the following identity

ijk lmn

il

= jl

kl

im

jm

km

in

jn

kn

which is too complex to be of much use to anyone! However, multiplying through by il reduces the above

equation to something much more manageable and useful. (Proving this yourself is an excellent homework

problem.)

ijk imn = jm kn jn km

This is a 4th rank tensor equation because there are four free indices, j, k, m, and n . The i index is

repeated twice on the LHS, so it is summed from 1 to 3. So the equation could be expanded to give

The terms can be evaluated once values are chosen for each of the four free indices.

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The identity is used when two alternating tensors are present in a term, which usually arises when the term

involves cross products. The benefit of employing it is that once the epsilons are transformed into the

deltas, then the substitution property of the Kronecker Deltas can be used to simplify the equation. The

following example demonstrates the usefulness of this identity.

Recall from this discussion of cross products that the area of a triangle is given by

Area =

1

| a b|

2

Area =

1

ijk aj bk imn am bn

2

Area =

1

(jm kn jn km )aj bk am bn

2

Area =

1

jm kn aj bk am bn jn km aj bk am bn

2

And the substitution property of the delta operator can now be exploited to obtain

Area =

1

am am bn bn bm am an bn

2

But am am is simply the dot product of the a vector with itself, as is bn bn . And am bm and

an bn are both the same dot product of a with b.

1

Area = (a a)(b b) (a b)2

2

Which offers an alternative calculation to the cross product approach. For what it's worth, the

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1 (a a) (a b)

Area =

2 (a b) (b b)

Prove the following identity, where v is a vector.

( v) = ( v) 2 v

( v) is ijk vk,j

and

equation to

Multiply through to get

As before, apply the substitution properties to obtain

Recognize that vk,mk is the gradient of the divergence of v. This can be made clearer if the

term is written more explicitly as (vk,k ),j . So vk,jk = ( v).

The second term is just the Laplacian of

( v) = ( v) 2 v

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