- 3.5.1 Wave steepening
- 3.5.2 Shocks
- 3.5.3 Conservation laws
- 3.5.4 Shock relation
- 3.5.5 The entropy condition

3.5 The inviscid Burgers’ equation

The inviscid Burgers’ equation is a model for nonlinear wave
propagation, especially in fluid mechanics. It takes the form

The characteristic equations are, according to (3.4),

The second of these shows that is constant along the characteristics of the Burgers’ equation, and then the first equation shows that the characteristic lines are straight lines in the -plane.

The solution of the two characteristic ordinary differential equations
above is simple:

The general solution of the partial differential equation may be found in terms of and by noting that must be a function of , , and then substituting for :

Some special cases are singular in those terms; they require that is written in terms of :

Normally, either expression may be taken to be the general solution of the ordinary differential equation. One-parameter function , respectively remains to be identified from whatever initial or boundary conditions there are.

3.5.1 Wave steepening

The given solution of the inviscid Burgers’ equation shows that the characteristics are straight lines. This is troubling, since straight lines are likely to intersect. In particular, since the point on a given characteristic lines propagates with speed , faster points behind less fast ones will eventually overtake them.

As an example, consider the following problem:

This problem is self-evidently periodic of period . Figure 3.4 shows how the characteristics intersect starting from time .

Figure 3.5 shows profiles versus at various times. Note that for times greater than one, becomes a multiple-valued function. Physically, this is normally not acceptable: you can not have three different pressures or flow velocities at the same point.

3.5.2 Shocks

The previous subsection noted that solutions of hyperbolic equations
with intersecting characteristics are usually not physically
acceptable. In fact, the desired solution for the inviscid
Burgers’ equation is usually taken to be the solution of the
viscous Burgers’ equation:

in the limit that the coefficient of viscosity becomes zero.

The viscous Burgers’ equation, too, is analytically solvable,
though the solution will be skipped here. The bottom line is that it
*does not* have multiple valued solutions. So what does the
solution of the viscous Burgers’ equation look like in the limit
that the viscosity becomes zero? Like figures 3.6 and
3.7. A jump discontinuity called a “shock”
develops in . The characteristics run into this shock and
disappear.

The question now is of course, what determines the precise location of the shock? Clearly, it should be somewhere in the region of intersecting characteristics, but that still leaves a considerable uncertainty. Equations for the shock are needed. They usually follow from the requirement that certain quantities remain conserved in the solution. This is addressed in the next subsections.

3.5.3 Conservation laws

Often, partial differential equations express conservation of some physical quantity. For example, the continuity equation for the density of a fluid expresses conservation of mass of the fluid: the mass of a region of fluid is found by integrating the density over the volume of the region, and the continuity equation implies that mass is preserved in time.

The viscous Burgers’ equation, too, preserves some quantity. To see
what, integrate the equation over an interval from some position to
some position :

The last two integrals can be integrated after noting that , to give

First consider the case that the problem is periodic and the integral
is over a full period. Then the quantities at and are the
same because of periodicity and drop away against each other. This
shows that

so that over a period is a conserved quantity, unchanging in time. The unknown itself can then be identified as the amount of conserved quantity per unit length.

Next consider the case that the region of integration is not a period.
In that case, the Leibniz rule for differentiating integrals says that

and plugging that into the integrated equation:

Now think of interval as being preceded by a similar interval , with . It is evident from the above expression that the reduction in the value of caused by the term

is fully compensated for by a corresponding increase in , because the same term shows up there as

with a plus sign. So whatever goes out of interval at goes into interval . The same way, whatever comes in at comes out of the region . It follows that is still preserved.

It may be noted that in

the first term represents the amount of conserved quantity being swept into the interval by the motion of its end point . Typically, the second term physically corresponds to the amount of conserved quantity being convected out by motion of the substance, and the final term to the amount diffusing in by random molecular motion.

3.5.4 Shock relation

If the solution of the inviscid Burgers’ equation is indeed supposed to approximate the solution of the viscous equation when the coefficient of viscosity becomes zero, it puts a condition on how the shocks must move. The shock is vanishingly thin and can only hold a negligible amount of conserved material. So, whatever goes into the shock at one side must come out at the other side.

The amounts going in and out of a region were derived in the previous
section for an interval . Taking point just before the shock
and just behind the shock, so that to practical purposes
with the shock velocity, equality of the amounts going in and
out requires

Solving for the shock velocity , you get

It follows that the shock must move with the average of the characteristic velocities and just before and after the shock. Figures 3.6 and 3.7 were obtained by finding the shock position from that relationship.

Shock relations, like this one for Burgers’ equation, are known as
Rankine-Hugoniot relations in fluid mechanics. When deriving shock
relations, make sure that the unknown variables are the conserved
quantities per unit volume. If you multiply the inviscid Burgers’
equation by , you get

from which it can be seen that as far as the

3.5.5 The entropy condition

Consider now Burgers’ equation for a unit “pulse”
initial condition:

This problem has a simple solution that is also quite wrong. It is shown in figure 3.8. It implies that the pulse moves with velocity towards the right. Note that both shocks satisfy the shock condition of the previous section; at one side of each shock and at the other side average in each case to .

The problem is with the left shock. Characteristics should run into the shock for increasing time like for the right shock, not emerge out of it as happens for the left one. In fluid mechanics, the left shock is what is called an “expansion” shock. It produces an adiabatic decrease in entropy over the shock, something the second law of thermodynamics does not allow. For that reason, the condition that characteristics must run into the shock is called the “entropy condition.”

The correct solution is shown in figure 3.9. The left jump in the initial condition spreads out into what is called an “expansion far.” Unlike the shock, the expansion fan is a perfectly good nonsingular solution of the Burgers“ equation, though you must use the solution form with . The solution form does not work since is the same, zero, on all characteristics, and u must be different on different characteristics. Conversely, in the other three regions, you must use the solution form with either uniformly zero or uniformly one. There the solution form does not work since is the same for all characteristics and is not.

It may also be observed that the entropy condition is necessary to get a unique solution; both figures 3.8 and 3.9 satisfy the Burgers“ equation at all continuous points and the shock conditions at all discontinuities.