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Lecture Notes, M261-004, Divergence Theorem and a Unified

Theory
Dec 3, 2008
The Divergence Theorem is the last of the major theorems of vector calculus we will consider,
and this is the last section of the textbook that we cover in this course. The divergence theorem is
a generalization of the normal form of Green’s Theorem. We see a unified theory emerging when
we consider all of these theorems. I will also briefly talk about integration by parts.
• Review of Important Integral Theorems and Statement of Divergence Theorem
• Integration by Parts in Several Dimensions
• Examples

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Review of Important Integral Theorems and Statement
of Divergence Theorem

The first important integral theorem that a calculus student learns is the fundamental theorem of
calculus:
Z b
f ′ (x)dx = f (b) − f (a)
a

In this section, we next saw the fundamental theorem for line integrals:
Z
∇f ds = f (b) − f (a)
C

We went on to see two different forms of Green’s Theorem:
I
Z Z
F · nds =
∇ · FdA
R

and

I

F · dr =

Z Z

∇ × F · kdA

R

The first of these formulas gives the flux of a vector field across a closed curve, and the second gives
the circulation around the closed curve. We generalized the second equation to three dimensions
with Stokes’ Theorem:
I
Z Z
F · dr =
∇ × F · ndσ
S

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Our final theorem, the divergence theorem, generalizes the first Green’s Theorem formula to several
dimensions, but in a different way:
Z Z Z
Z Z
∇ · FdV
F · ndσ =
D

S

Here, we assume S is a closed oriented surface and n is the outward unit normal vector. D is the
region enclosed by S. (For example, if S were the suface of a sphere, D would be interior of the
sphere.) As a reminder, the divergence of F is defined by
divF = ∇F =

∂N
∂P
∂M
+
+
∂x
∂y
∂z

Unlike the curl, which can only be defined for a three-dimensional vector field defined in 3D
space, the divergence of a vector field can be defined in any dimension. (As long as the domain
has the same dimension as the range.) So the divergence theorem is actually true in any number
of dimensions.
In all of these integral theorems, we are integrating the derivative of a function over some set,
and we see how it is related to the integral of the function itself over the boundary of the set.
We looked at the divergence in two dimensions, and it has the same geometric meaning in three
dimensions (or any number of dimensions for that matter.) The theorem says that we can find the
total flux through the surface by integrating the divgence over the region enclosed by the surface.

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Integration by Parts in Several Dimensions

I do not believe this material will be on the final, but it is easy to prove from the divergence
theorem and is very useful. You’ll thank me when you get to Partial Differential Equations.
Suppose we have a closed surface, a vector field F and function of several variables a(x). Then
the function a(x)F(x) is also a vector field. We have
Z Z Z
Z Z Z
Z Z Z
div(a(x)F(x))dV =
∇a(x) · F(x)dV +
a(x)divF(x)dV
D

D

D

from just applying the product rule. Using the divergence theorem, this quantity is also equal to
Z Z
a(x)F · ndσ
S

So this gives
Z Z Z

a(x)divF(x)dV =

D

Z Z

a(x)F · ndσ −

S

Z Z Z

∇a(x) · F(dx)dV

D

This is a three-dimensional version of integration by parts (and we can generalized it to any
dimension.) This is a very important tool when we study partial differential equations.

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examples

Example 1. Find the outward flux of

across the sphere x2 + y 2 + z 2 ≤ 4

F = x2 , xz, 3z

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Example 2. Find the outward flux of

F = 6x2 + 2xy, 2y + x2 z, 4x2 y 3

across the region cut from the first octant by x2 + y 2 = 4 and z = 3.
Example 3. Find the outward flux of

across the sphere x2 + y 2 + z 2 ≤ a2

F = x3 , y 3 , z 3

Example 4. Find the outward flux of
p
F = hx, y, zi / x2 + y 2 + z 2
across the region 1 ≤ x2 + y 2 + z 2 ≤ 4

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