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Chapter 1

Distributions on open sets of Rd

”. . . For the Fourier transform, the introduction of distribution (hence


the space S) is inevitable either in an explicit or hidden form. . . As a
result one may obtain all that is desired from the point of view of the
continuity and inversion of the Fourier transform.”
Laurent Schwartz (1915-2002)

The theory of distributions has been introduced by L. Schwartz (1915-2002) ca. 1944-1950 as ”ob-
jects” which generalize functions [Schwartz, 1945, Schwartz, 1966]. They extend the notion of derivative
to all integrable functions and are now widely used to formulate generalized solutions of partial differ-
ential equations. The Lebesgue Lp spaces contain non regular and non continuous functions for which
derivatives are not defined in the classical sense. Nonetheless, the classical derivatives generally exist
almost everywhere. It seems then reasonable to generalize the notion of derivative to be independent of
zero-measure subsets. This leads to the concept of weak derivative introduced by J. Leray (1906-1998)
and S.L. Sobolev (1908-1989). The main concept underlying the notion of weak derivative is the concept
of distributions.

Contents
1.1 Infinitely smooth functions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1.2 The concept of distribution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

According to [Schwartz, 1966], O. Heaviside (1850-1925) introduced in 1894 a function denoted H and
called the unit step function. It corresponds to the characteristic function of the interval [0, +∞[ of R and
is a discontinuous function whose value is zero for negative argument and one for positive argument (cf.
Figure 1.1). This function has no derivative at the origin. Nonetheless, Heaviside defined the derivative
H ! of H at any point in R, and called it the unit impulse function, as:
!
! 0 x "= 0
H (x) = (1.1)
+∞ x=0

This function H cannot be considered as a usual function. Since H ! vanishes almost everywhere, it should
be assigned integral zero: " a
H ! (x) dx = 0 , ∀a ∈]0, +∞[ . (1.2)
−a

3
4 Chapter 1. Distributions on open sets of Rd

Furthermore, we have:
" a
H ! (x) dx = H(a) − H(−a) = 1 , ∀a ∈]0, +∞[ . (1.3)
−a

Actually, the function H ! has been reintroduced by P. Dirac (1902-1984) in 1926 and is widely used in the
context of quantum physics, where it is called the Dirac delta function, denoted δ. It has the following
property: " +∞
f (x)δ(x) dx = f (0) ,
−∞

for all continuous functions f . However, there is no function verifying this property.
The purpose of the distribution theory is to eradicate all these contradictions by giving a rigorous
definition of generalized functions, called distributions. Distributions have the remarkable property of
being all indefinitely differentiable (in a certain sense). Furthermore, an noteworthy property is that the
derivation is a continuous operation in the distribution space.

H(x − a) f (x)

1 h

a x 0 a−ε a a+ε x

Figure 1.1: The Heaviside step function (left) and the impulse function (right).

1.1 Infinitely smooth functions


I this section, we review some basic notions of differential calculus and we introduce the definition of
function with compact support1 .

1.1.1 Differential calculus


Let consider an open subset Ω ⊂ Rd . We denote by L(Rd , Rm ) the vector space of linear maps. This
space becomes a Banach space when endowed with the norm:

'u'L(Rd ,Rm ) = sup 'ux' , ∀u ∈ L(Rd , Rm ) .


$x$<1

1
This presentation has been inspired by various lecture notes, in particular those of J.-M. Bony, Analyse, Ecole Polytech-
nique, Palaiseau, of M. Tucsnak, Distributions et équations fondamentales de la physique, Institut Elie Cartan, Université
Nancy I and of J.-Y. Chemin, Analyse réelle, UPMC, Paris.
1.1. Infinitely smooth functions 5

Definition 1.1 The function f : Ω ⊂ Rd → Rm is said to be differentiable at x ∈ Ω if there exists an


element f ! (x) ∈ L(Rd , Rm ) such that
'f (x + h) − f (x) − f ! (x)h' = o('h') , h → 0.
Lemma 1.1 If f : Ω → R is differentiable at x0 , then f has a partial derivative with respect to xj at x0
and
∂f
(x0 ) = f ! (x0 )ej , ∀j ∈ {1, . . . , d} ,
∂xj
where (e1 , . . . , ed ) denotes the canonical basis of Rd . Moreover, we have
f ! (x0 )v = )∇f (x0 ), v+ , ∀v ∈ Rd ,
d
# ∂f
the vector ∇f (x0 ) = (x0 )ej is the gradient of f at x0 ,
∂xj
j=1

Proposition 1.1 Suppose I is an open interval of R and f is continuous in I and differentiable except
at point x0 ∈ I. If x ∈ I and lim f ! (x) = a ∈ R, then f ! (x0 ) exists and we have f ! (x0 ) = a.
x→x0

Definition 1.2 Consider an open subset Ω ⊂ Rd and k ∈ N. A function f ∈ C k (Ω) if one of the
following conditions holds:
(i) k = 0 and f is continuous on Ω,
∂f
(ii) k ≥ 1 and f has partial derivatives , j = 1, . . . , d that are in C k−1 (Ω).
∂xj
Moreover, f ∈ C ∞ (Ω) if f ∈ C k (Ω) for all k ∈ N.
Lemma 1.2 (Schwarz) If f ∈ C 2 (Ω) then
∂2f ∂2f
= , ∀i, j ∈ {1, . . . , d} .
∂xi ∂xj ∂xj ∂xi
Notice that if f ∈ C k (Ω, this lemma refers to the property of interchanging the order of taking partial
derivatives of a function. The matrix of second-order partial derivatives of f is called the Hessian matrix.
In most cases, this matrix is a symmetric matrix.
Theorem 1.1 (Taylor’s formula) Let Ω be an open subset of Rd , m ∈ N and f ∈ C m+1 (Ω). Consider
x, y ∈ Ω such that x + ty ∈ Ω, for all t ∈ [0, 1]. Then, we have:
# yα # yγ " 1
f (x + y) = ∂ f (x) + (m + 1)
α
(1 − t)m ∂ γ f (x + ty) dt . (1.4)
α! γ! 0
|α|≤m |γ|=m+1

Corollary 1.1 Let Ω be an open subset of Rd , f ∈ C m+1 (Ω) and K a compact subset of Ω. Consider
x, y ∈ K such that [x, x + y] ⊂ K. Then, there exists a constant C = C(K, m, f ) such that
$ $
$ $
$ # α
y α $
$f (x + y) − ∂ f (x)$$ ≤ C'y'm+1 . (1.5)
$ α!
$ |α|≤m $

Corollary 1.2 If f ∈ C k (B) where B = {x ∈ Rd , 'x' < 1}, then there exists f1 , . . . , fd ∈ C k−1 (B) such
that:
d
#
∂ α ∂j f (0)
∂ α fj (0) = , sup |∂ α fj | ≤ sup |∂ α ∂j f | , ∀j = 1, . . . , d f (x) − f (0) = xj fj (x) .
1 + |α| x∈B x∈B j=1
6 Chapter 1. Distributions on open sets of Rd

1.1.2 Existence of C ∞ functions


Let Ω ⊂ Rd be an open set. We recall that the set of infinitely smooth functions is defined as:
%
C ∞ (Ω) = C k (Ω) .
k≥0

Definition 1.3 Given u ∈ C 0 (Ω),


the support of u, denoted as Supp(u), is defined as the closure of the
set {x ∈ Ω , u(x) "= 0} in Ω. It is the smallest closed subset of Ω such that u = 0 in Ω\ Supp(u).
Notice that if x ∈ Supp(u), then there exists a sequence (xn )n∈N ⊂ Ω such that u(xn ) "= 0 for all n ∈ N
and such that limn→∞ xn = x.
Definition 1.4 If k ∈ N ∪ {+∞}, the space C0k (Ω) is composed of all functions u ∈ C k (Ω) having a
compact subset of Ω as support. The elements of C0∞ (Ω), hereafter denoted by D(Ω), are called test
functions.
It is common to find the notations C0∞ (Ω) or Cc∞ (Ω) instead of the symbol D(Ω). Every function
u ∈ C0k (Ω) can be extended to a function of C0k (Rd ). Thus, C0k (Ω) can be seen as a subspace of C0k (Rd ).
In this respect, given an open set Ω ⊂ Rd , the set C0k (Ω) can be defined as the set of elements u ∈ C0k (Rd )
for which Supp(u) ⊂ Ω.
The space D(Ω) is not empty. Indeed, we have the following result.
Lemma 1.3 There exists a function u ∈ D(Rd ) such that u(0) > 0 and u(x) ≥ 0, for all x ∈ Rd .

Proof. Consider the function f ∈ C ∞ (R) defined as:


!
0 x≤0
f (x) =
exp (−1/x) x>0
Then, the function
u(x) = f (1 − 'x'2 )
satisfies the assumptions. By translation and scaling, we show that for every r > 0, the function
& '
x − x0
x /→ u
r
is positive on R, strictly positive at x0 and its support is the ball of radius r centered at x0 . !
The existence of such function u allows to prove a classical result.
Theorem 1.2 If f, g ∈ C 0 (Ω) and if the following identity holds
" "
f u dx = gu dx , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) ,
Ω Ω
then, f = g.

Proof. Let consider h = f − g, then


"
hu dx = 0 , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) .

If h is a complex valued function, we will consider the real and imaginary parts separately. Hence, consider h is a
real valued function and that the previous equality holds for all u ∈ D(Ω), u being a real valued function. If there
exists x0 such that h(x0 ) "= 0 then we select u such that u(x0 ) > 0 with support in a neighborhood of x0 and such
that uh has constant sign. This obviously is in contradiction with the assumption, thus h ≡ 0 in Ω. !
Lemma 1.4 There exists an increasing function θ ∈ C ∞ (R) such that
!
0 x≤0
θ(x) =
1 x≥1
1.1. Infinitely smooth functions 7

Proof. Consider the function f ∈ C ∞ (R) defined hereabove as:


!
0 x≤0
f (x) =
exp (−1/x) x>0

In this case,
( x Supp(f ) = [0, ∞[ and 0 ≤ f (x) ≤ 1, for all x ∈ R. We introduce the functions g(x) = f (x)f (1 − x) and
G(x) = 0 g(t) dt. We notice that 0 ≤ g(x) ≤ 1, for all x ∈ R and that Supp(g) ⊂ [0, 1] and g "≡ 0. The function
G(x)
θ= ∈ C ∞ (R) is an increasing function and is such that
G(1)
!
0 x≤0
θ(x) =
1 x≥1

Proposition 1.2 Consider four real numbers a, b, c and d such that a < c < d < b. Then, there exists
ρ ∈ D(R) such that:

(i) ρ(x) = 1, for all x ∈]c, d[,

(ii) Supp(ρ) ⊂]a, b[,

(iii) 0 ≤ ρ(x) ≤ 1, for all x ∈ R.


& ' & '
x−a b−x
Proof. Consider the function ρ(x) = θ θ , where θ is the function defined in the previous
c−a b−d
lemma. !
If K is a compact subset of Rd and ε > 0, we denote
)
Kε = K + B(0, ε) = B(x, ε) ,
x∈K

where B(x, ε) the ball of radius ε centered at x ∈ Rd .

Proposition 1.3 Consider a compact set K ⊂ Rd . Then, for every ε > 0, there exists u ∈ D(K2ε ) such
that: !
u(x) = 1 ∀x ∈ Kε
0 ≤ u(x) ≤ 1 ∀x ∈ Rd

Proof. By compacity, there exists x1 , . . . , xp ∈ K such that


p
) & '

Kε ⊂ B xj , .
j=1
3

For each j = 1, . . . , p there exists a function uj ∈ D(B(xj , 5ε


3 )) such that uj (x) ≥ 0 for all x ∈ R and uj ≡ 1 on
d
p
)
*d
3 ). Consider ũ(x) =
B(xj , 4ε j=1 uj (x). Then, ũ(x) ≥ 1 for all x ∈ B(xj , ε). Moreover, given that
j=1

p
) & '

B xj , ⊂ K2ε ,
j=1
3

we conclude that ũ ∈ D(K2ε ). Taking u = θ(ũ(x)) where θ ∈ C ∞ (R) is the function introduced in the previous
lemma, yields the result. !
8 Chapter 1. Distributions on open sets of Rd

Corollary 1.3 Let K1 , K2 be two disjoined compact subsets of the open set Ω ⊂ Rd . Then, there exists
a function u ∈ D(Ω) such that
!
1 ∀x ∈ K1
u(x) =
−1 ∀x ∈ K2

and such that |u(x)| ≤ 1 for all x ∈ Ω.

Proof. Consider U1 and U2 two open sets of Ω such that

K1 ⊂ U1 , K2 ⊂ U2 , U1 ∩ U2 = ∅ .

From the previous proposition, we know that there exists u1 , u2 ∈ D(Ω) such that:

ui ≡ 1 , in Ki , ui ∈ D(Ui ) , 0 ≤ ui (x) ≤ 1 , i ∈ {1, 2} .

The function u defined as: u(x) = u1 (x) − u2 (x), ∀x ∈ Ω satisfies the desired properties. !

1.1.3 Partition of unity


Partitions of unity are useful because they often allow one to extend local constructions to the whole
space.

Proposition 1.4 Let K be a compact subset of Rd and let consider an open cover (Uj )j=1,...,N of K.
Then, there exists compacts sets (Kj )j=1,...,N such that Kj ⊂ Uj , for all j = 1, . . . , N and

N
)
K= Kj . (1.6)
j=1

% )
Proof. For every x ∈ K, consider rx > 0 such that B(x, rx ) ⊂ Uj . Hence, we have K ⊂ B(x, rx ) and
x∈Uj x∈K
M
)
thus there exists x1 , . . . , xM ∈ K such that K ⊂ B(xi , rxi ). We pose
i=1

 
)
Kj = K ∩  B(xi , rxi ) .
B(xi ,rxi )⊂Uj

Then by definition, Kj is a compact set included in K such that Kj ⊂ Uj . Let consider x ∈ K. There exists
i ∈ {1, . . . , M } such that x ∈ B(xi , rxi ). Moreover, there exists j0 ∈ {1, . . . , N } such that xi ∈ Uj0 , thus
B(xi , rxi ) ⊂ Uj0 . We conclude that x ∈ Kj0 . !

Theorem 1.3 (Partition of unity) Consider a compact subset K of Rd and open sets Uj of Rd . Sup-
N
)
pose we have K ⊂ Uj , then there exists a collection (uj )j=1,...,N such that uj ∈ D(Uj ), 0 ≤ uj ≤ 1 for
j=1
N
#
all j = 1, . . . , N and such that uj = 1 in the neighborhood of K.
j=1
1.1. Infinitely smooth functions 9

Proof. We know that there exists compact sets (Kj )j∈{1,...,N } such that Kj ⊂ Uj , for every j = 1, . . . , N and
N
)
such that K = Kj . Moreover, from the previous proposition, we deduce that for every j = 1, . . . , N , there
j=1
exists vj ∈ D(Uj ) such that vj (x) ∈ [0, 1], for all x ∈ Rd and vj (x) = 1 if x ∈ Kj . Consider the open set
 
 N
) #N 
V = x∈ Uj , vj (x) > 0 .
 
j=1 j=1

We have then K ⊂ V . Hence, there exists η ∈ D(V ) such that η(x) ∈ [0, 1] for x ∈ Rd and η ≡ 1 on an open set
W such that K ⊂ W ⊂ V . Considering the function
vj
ui = *N ,
(1 − η) + k=1 vk

we notice that ui ∈ D(Uj ) as the denominator is strictly positive on V and is equal to 1 outside V . Since η ≡ 1 on
N
#
the set W , the relation implies that ui ≡ 1 on W . !
j=1

Definition 1.5 Under the hypothesis of Theorem 1.3, the collection (uj )j=1,...,N is called a partition of
unity subordinate to the open cover (Uj )j=1,...,N of K.

1.1.4 Lebesgue integration


We briefly recall some important results about Lebesgue integration and Lp spaces and we refer the
reader to Appendix D for more details and results.
If Ω is an open subset of Rd and p ≥ 1, we denote by Lp (Ω) the space of p-power integrable functions
with values in R. The space Lp (Ω) endowed with the norm
&" '1
p
'f 'Lp (Ω) = |f (x)| dx
p
, ∀f ∈ Lp (Ω) , (1.7)

is a Banach space. If p ≥ 1, we denote by Lploc (Ω) the space of locally integrable functions f such that
f ∈ Lp (K), for every compact K ∈ Ω.

Lemma 1.5 If f ∈ Lploc (Ω) then, there exists a largest open set V in Ω such that f |V = 0 almost
everywhere in V .

Definition 1.6 Consider Ω ⊂ Rd and f ∈ L1loc (Ω). We call essential support of f the closed set Ω\V
where V is the largest open V ⊂ Ω such that f |V = 0 almost everywhere in V .

Theorem 1.4 (Lebesgue dominated convergence) Let (fn )n∈N be a sequence of functions of L1 (Ω),
with Ω an open set of Rd . Suppose that

(i) fn (x) → f (x) almost everywhere on Ω,

(ii) there exists a function g ∈ L1 (Ω) such that for every n, |fn (x)| ≤ g(x) almost everywhere in Ω.

Then, f ∈ L1 (Ω) and limn→∞ 'fn − f 'L1 (Ω) = 0.

Theorem 1.5 (Lebesgue) Let Ω be an open set of Rd , f : Rp × Ω → R and k ∈ N. Suppose that

(i) the function fx : Ω → R defined by fx (λ) = f (x, λ) belongs to C k (Ω) for every fixed x ∈ Rp ,
10 Chapter 1. Distributions on open sets of Rd

(ii) for all α ∈ Nn such that |α| ≤ k we have

sup |∂ α fx (λ)| ≤ wα (x) ,


λ∈Ω

where wα ∈ L1 (Rp ).
"
Then, the function g(λ) = f (x, λ) dx is a function of C k (Ω) and for every λ ∈ R we have:
Rp
"
∂ α g(λ) = ∂λα f (x, λ) dx , ∀α ∈ Nn |α| ≤ k .
Rp

Consider Ω1 ⊂ Rn1 , Ω2 ⊂ Rn2 two open sets and a measurable function F : Ω1 × Ω2 → C. We have
two classical results.
"
Theorem 1.6 (Tonelli) Suppose that |F (x, y)| dy < ∞ for almost every x ∈ Ω1 and that
Ω2
" "
dx |F (x, y)| dy < ∞ .
Ω1 Ω2

Then F ∈ L1 (Ω1 × Ω2 ).

Theorem 1.7 " (Fubini) Suppose F ∈ L (Ω1 × Ω2 ). Then, we have F (x, y) ∈ L (Ω2 ) for almost every
1 1

x ∈ Ω1 and F (x, y) dy ∈ L1 (Ω1 ). Similarly, we have F (x, y) ∈ L1 (Ω1 ) for almost every y ∈ Ω2 and
" Ω 2

F (x, y) dx ∈ L1 (Ω2 ). Furthermore, we have:


Ω1
" " " " "
dx F (x, y) dy = dy F (x, y) dx = F (x, y) dxdy .
Ω1 Ω2 Ω2 Ω1 Ω1 ×Ω2

To conclude this section, we give the following density result.

Theorem 1.8 (i) If p ≥ 1, then the space C00 (Ω) is dense in Lp (Ω).

(ii) If 1 ≤ p < ∞, the space D(Ω) is dense in Lp (Ω).

1.2 The concept of distribution


1.2.1 Main definitions
Let Ω be an open subset of Rd and let K denote a compact of Ω. In this section, we call test function on Ω
any function of D(Ω) and we denote by DK (Ω) the set of test functions with support in K. Furthermore,
we like to introduce the following notations: given (α, β) ∈ Nd × Nd , x ∈ Rd , and u ∈ C ∞ (Ω) :
d
# d
5 d
5 d
5
def def def α def α
|α| = αj , α! = αj ! , xα = xj j , ∂αu = ∂j j u .
j=1 j=1 j=1 j=1
1.2. The concept of distribution 11

Definition 1.7 We call distribution on Ω any linear form T on D(Ω) such that the following continuity
property holds: for every compact set K ⊂ Ω, there exists an integer N and a constant CK such that:
|)T, u+| ≤ CK sup '∂ α u'L∞ , ∀u ∈ DK (Ω) (1.8)
|α|≤N

and we denote by D! (Ω) the set of all distributions on Ω.


If for every compact K ⊂ Ω, the previous inequality holds for the same integer N , then the order of the
distribution u is at most N .
Example 1.1 (i) Every function f ∈ L1loc (Ω) defines a distribution Tf ∈ D! (Ω) or order 0 by posing
"
)Tf , u+ = f (x)u(x) dx , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) .

(ii) Given a ∈ Ω, we consider the linear form on D(Ω) defined as


)δa , u+ = u(a) , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) .
Hence, we have
|)δa , u+| ≤ 'u'L∞ (Ω) , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) ,
δa is a distribution of order 0 in Ω, called the Dirac mass at point a. However, δa cannot be obtained
via a L1loc (Ω) function. Indeed, suppose that there exists f ∈ L1loc (Ω) such that
"
)δa , u+ = f (x)u(x) dx = u(a) , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) . (1.9)

By denoting Ω̃ = Ω\{a}, we have


"
)δa , u+ = f (x)u(x) dx = 0 , ∀u ∈ D(Ω̃) .

Hence,
( we can show that f = 0 almost everywhere in Ω̃ and thus almost everywhere in Ω. Therefore,
Ω f (x)u(x) dx = 0 for every function u ∈ D(Ω). This is in contradiction with he assumption (1.9)
when u(a) "= 0.
The continuity property of a distribution can be characterized using sequences, as for the linear operators
in normed spaces. We introduce first the notion of convergence in D(Ω).
Definition 1.8 Let consider an open set Ω ⊂ Rd . The sequence (un )n∈N of elements of D(Ω) converges
toward u ∈ D(Ω) if
1. there exists a compact set K in Ω such that Supp (un ) ⊂ K, for all n ∈ N.
2. for every α ∈ Nn , we have lim '∂ α (un − u)'∞ = 0.
n→∞

Definition 1.9 Let consider a sequence (Tn )n∈N of elements in D! (Ω) and a distribution T on Ω. The
sequence (Tn )n∈N is said to converge toward T if and only if:
∀u ∈ D(Ω) , lim )Tn , u+ = )T, u+ .
n→∞

Theorem 1.9 A linear form T : D(Ω) → C is a distribution on Ω if and only if, for any sequence
(un )n∈N ⊂ D(Ω) tending toward 0 in D(Ω), we have:
lim )T, un + = 0 .
n→∞
12 Chapter 1. Distributions on open sets of Rd

Proof. Suppose T ∈ D$ (Ω) and consider (un )n∈N ⊂ D(Ω) tending toward 0 in D(Ω). From the previous definition
of the convergence in D(Ω), we know that there exists a compact subset K in Ω such that Supp (un ) ⊂ K for each
n ∈ N. Hence, there exist constants CK and NK such that
#
|)T, un +| ≤ CK '∂ α un '∞ , ∀n ∈ N .
|α|≤NK

Since limn→∞ '∂ un '∞ = 0 for each given α, we deduce the result for every sequence (un )n∈N ⊂ D(Ω) tending
α

toward 0 in D(Ω). The reciprocal assertion is established by contradiction.


Suppose there exists a compact K0 in Ω such that for all N ∈ N and for every C > 0 we could find uN,C ∈
DK0 (Ω) verifying #
|)T, uN,C +| > C '∂ α uN,C '∞ .
|α|≤N

Take uN = uN,N for every N ∈ N . It is obvious that uN "= 0, hence assume that the following equality holds

1
sup '∂ α uN '∞ = .
|α|≤N N

Hence, the two previous equalitites yield the result

|)T, uN +| > 1 , ∀N ∈ N .

Since, for every N ∈ N, Supp (uN ) ⊂ K0 we deduce

lim uN = 0 , in D(Ω) ,
N →∞

that is obviously in contradiction with the hypothesis. ( !


We may be wondering what is the meaning of the integral Ω f (x)u(x) dx for arbitrary functions and
for every test function u. Obviously, the function f must be in L1 (K) for every compact set K in Ω. The
following theorem allows to consider functions in L1loc (Ω) as distributions.
Theorem
( 1.10 Consider a test function u ∈ DK (Ω). The linear map ι : L1loc (Ω) → D! (Ω), f /→ ι(f ) :
u → Ω f (x)u(x) dx is a linear injection. Furthermore, for any compact K in Ω, we have

∀u ∈ DK (Ω) , |)ι(f ), u+| ≤ 'f 'L1 (K) 'u'L∞ (Ω) .

Remark 1.1 We will assume now that any function f in L1loc (Ω) is identical to the distribution
"
u /→ f (x)u(x) dx .

When considering that the distribution T is a function, this will mean that there exists a function f ∈
L1loc (Ω) such that "
∀u ∈ D(Ω) , )T, u+ = f (x)u(x) dx .

The following proposition establishes that the Dirac mass is the limit of the approximations of identity.
Proposition 1.5 Consider a function χ in D(Rd ) of integral 1 and (εn )n∈N a sequence of real numbers
tending toward 0. We pose & '
def −d x
χεn (x) = εn χ .
εn
Then, the sequence (χεn )n∈N converges toward δ0 in the distributional sense, where δ0 is the linear form
defined by δ0 : D(Rd ) → C, u /→ u(0).
1.2. The concept of distribution 13

Remark 1.2 This result has a physical meaning. Indeed, if the functions εn are considered as mass
densities, the limit (in a certain sense) must be seen as a ponctual mass associated with the origin.
1
Definition 1.10 We call principal value of the function 1/x and we denote it pv the distribution
x
defined by: " ∞
1 1 u(x) − u(−x)
)pv , u+ = dx , ∀u ∈ D(R) .
x 2 −∞ x
Notice that this formula defines a distribution since we have, for every test function u ∈ D[−R,R] ,
$ $
$)pv 1 , u+$ ≤ R'u! 'L∞ .
$ $
$ x $

1.2.2 Operations on distributions


We define now several usual operations on distributions that are already familiar for classical smooth
functions, for example test functions.
Definition 1.11 (Restriction) Suppose ω and Ω are two open subsets in Rd such that ω ⊂ Ω and
consider a distribution T on Ω. We define the restriction of T to the open set ω, denoted by T|ω , as
def
∀u ∈ D(ω) , )T|ω , u+ = )T, u+ .
Furthermore, if f ∈ L1loc (Ω) we have:
" "
∀u ∈ D(Ω) , f|ω (x)u(x) dx = f|ω (x)u(x) dx .
ω Ω

This definition coincide with the notion of restriction for functions.


Remark 1.3 The restriction of a distribution to a set is only defined for an open set.
If T1 and T2 are distributions of order m on Rd , it is obvious that T1 + T2 and aT1 are distributions of
the same order for all a ∈ R. However, the product T1 T2 of two distributions is not a distribution. For
example, if we were to define )T1 T2 , u+ = )T1 , u+)T2 , u+, this is not linear in u.

1.2.3 Differentiation of distributions


One of the strongest advantage of the distribution theory is that the differentiation operation is always
defined and is ”continuous”. Indeed, consider a function f ∈ C 1 (Rd ) and u ∈ D(Rd ), then:
6 7 "
∂f ∂f
,u = (x)u(x) dx ,
∂xi R d ∂xi
" 6 7
∂u ∂u
=− (x)f (x) dx = − f, .
Rd ∂xi ∂xi
This result is still valid if we set f to be a distribution. More precisely,
Proposition 1.6 Let T ∈ D! (Ω) be a distribution on an open set Ω ⊂ Rd . The linear form T (j) on D(Ω)
defined by: 6 7
def ∂u
)T , u+ = − T,
(j)
= −)T, ∂xj u+ ,
∂xj
defines a distribution on Ω. Furthermore, if (Tn )n∈N is a sequence in D! (Ω) converging toward T , then
(j)
the sequence (Tn )n∈N converges toward T (j) .
14 Chapter 1. Distributions on open sets of Rd

Proof. Since T is a distribution, for every compact K in Ω, there exists a constant C and an integer N such
that
∀v ∈ DK , |)T, v+| ≤ C sup '∂ α v'L∞ .
|α|≤N

For every u ∈ DK , we apply this to v = ∂xj u ∈ DK . Hence, we have

∀u ∈ DK , |)T (j) , u+| = |)T, ∂xj u+| ≤ C sup '∂ α u'L∞ .


|α|≤N +1

Thus, T (j) is a distribution on Ω. Moreover, for every function u ∈ D(Ω) we have:

lim )Tn(j) , u+ = − lim )Tn , ∂xj u+ = −)T, ∂xj u+ = )T (j) , u+ .


n→∞ n→∞

the results follows. !

Definition 1.12 Suppose T ∈ D! (Ω). Then, the distribution T (j) is called the partial derivative of T
with respect to the variable xj and is denoted ∂xj T and is such that:

)∂xj T, u+ = −)T, ∂xj u+ , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) . (1.10)

Notice that if f is a differentiable function, the derivative of the distribution associated with f coincide
with the usual derivative of f .
Example 1.2 (i) The Heaviside step function H is the characteristic function of R+ . We have ∂x H =
δ0 in D! (R). Indeed, for any test function u ∈ D(R), we have:
6 7 " +∞
dH !
)∂x H, u+ = , u = −)H, u + = − u! (x)H(x) dx
dx −∞
" +∞
(1.11)
=− u! (x) dx = u(0) since u(+∞) = 0
0
= )δ0 , u+ .
Hence, the derivative of H in the sens of distributions is the Dirac mass defined hereabove.
(ii) Since the function f (x) = log |x| is in the space L1loc (R), it defines an element of D! (R). Indeed,
1
the derivative of f in the distributional sense is the distribution pv introduced previously:
x
df 1
= pv .
dx x
According to the definition of the derivative in D! (R), we have for all u ∈ D(R):
6 7 "
df
, u = − log(|x|)u! (x) dx .
dx R

We observe that:
" "
log(|x|)u! (x) dx = [u(−ε) − u(ε)] log ε − u! (x) dx ,
|x|>ε |x|>ε

and thus, we deduce that


" "
1
log(|x|)u! (x) dx = lim log(|x|)u! (x) dx = −)pv , u+ .
R n→∞ |x|>ε x
1.2. The concept of distribution 15

The next results establishes a relation between the derivative and the primitive, in the distributional
sense.

Theorem 1.11 Consider a distribution T on an open interval I ⊂ R. If its derivative, in the distribu-
tional sense, T ! is a function of L1loc (I), then T is a continuous function and we have, for all a ∈ I:
" x
T (x) = T ! (x)dx + C .
a

Lemma 1.6 Suppose I is an open interval of R. Then,

1. the distributions on I for which the identity T ! = 0 holds, are the constant functions.

2. for any T2 ∈ D! (I), there exists T1 ∈ D! (I) such that T1! = T2 .

3. for a ∈ I and f ∈ L1loc (I), we have (in the distributional sense):


" x
d
f (y)dy = f (x) .
dx a
"
Proof. Let consider θ ∈ D(I), such that θ(x) dx = 1, and u ∈ D(I). Then, the function
I
&" ' "
η(x) = u(x) − u(x) dx θ(x) ∈ D(I) and η(x) dx = 0 .
I I

This implies the existence of a unique function v ∈ D(I) such that v $ = η. Hence, there exists a unique function
v ∈ D(I) such that &" '
v$ = u − u(x) dx θ . (1.12)
I

Now, let consider T ∈ D (I) such that T = 0. We have


$ $

&" '
)T, u+ = u(x) dx )T, θ+ + )T, v $ + .
I

The term )T, v $ + = −)T $ , v+ is equal to zero and we obtain by denoting C the constant term )T, θ+:
"
)T, u+ = C u(x) dx .
I

Thus, T is equal to a constant C.


To find a primitive T1 of T2 , we pose
)T1 , u+ = −)T2 , v+ ,
where v is the unique function of D(I) associated with u via the relation (1.12). It is easy to show the linearity
and continuity of T1 and thus we have

)T1 , u$ + = −)T2 , u+ , ∀u ∈ D(I) ,

and thus we have proved that T1$ = T2 . !

Lemma 1.7 Consider T ∈ D! (Rd ) and suppose that ∂xj T = 0 for all i = 1, . . . , d. Then, T is a constant
(function).
16 Chapter 1. Distributions on open sets of Rd

1.2.4 Multiplication by a C ∞ function


Proposition 1.7 Let consider f ∈ C ∞ (Ω) and T ∈ D! (Ω). Then, for all u ∈ D(Ω), the linear form on
D(Ω) defined by u /→ )T, f u+ is a distribution on Ω. The order of this distribution on every compact K
in Ω in lesser than or equal to the order of T on K.

Definition 1.13 The product of the distribution T ∈ D! (Ω) by the function f ∈ C ∞ (Ω) is the distribution
defined by:
)f T, u+ = )T, f u+ , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) .

Example 1.3 (i) For f ∈ C ∞ (Ω) and a ∈ Ω, we have f δa = f (a)δa . Indeed, we can observe that

)f δa , u+ = )δa , f u+ = )f (a)δa , u+ , ∀u ∈ D(Ω) .

In particular, xδ0 = 0.

(ii) We can find all solutions T ∈ D! (Ω) of the equation xT = 0. Let consider χ ∈ D(R) such that
χ(0) = 1. For every function u ∈ D(R), the function u − u(0)χ vanishes at the origin, hence there
exists a function v ∈ C ∞ (R) such that

u = u(0)χ + xv .

Since u and χ are functions with compact support, the relation means that v ∈ D(R). Thus, we
have
)T, u+ = u(0))T, χ+ + )T, xv+ .
By assumption, we have )T, xv+ = )xT, v+ = 0. Denoting C the constant )T, χ+, we obtain that
)T, u+ = Cu(0), hence T = Cδ0 .

Proposition 1.8 (Leibniz formula) Consider f ∈ C ∞ (Ω) and T ∈ D! (Ω). Then,

∂f
∂xi (f T ) = T + f ∂xi T , ∀i ∈ {1, . . . , n} .
∂xi