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17Calculus - Laplace Transforms

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Laplace Transforms involve a technique to change an expression into another form that is easier to work with using an improper integral.   We usually introduce Laplace Transforms in the context of differential equations, since we use them a lot to solve some differential equations that can't be solved using other standard techniques.   However, Laplace Transforms require only improper integration techniques to use.   So you may run across them in first year calculus.

Resources

Topics You Need To Understand For This Page

limits at infinity

integrals

improper integrals

Related Topics and Links

WikiBooks ODE's Laplace Transforms

Pauls Online Notes - Laplace Transforms

Here are a couple of great playlists with many videos explaining Laplace Transforms

Michel vanBiezen - Laplace Transforms Playlist [58 videos]

video by Michel vanBiezen

Trefor Bazett - Laplace Transforms and Solving ODEs Playlist [12 videos]

video by Trefor Bazett

The Laplace Transform

\(\displaystyle{ \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} = F(s) = \int_{0}^{\infty}{e^{-st}f(t)~dt} }\)

In the integral, \(s\) is considered a constant and \(s > 0\)

After integration, we have a function \(F(s)\), which is a function of \(s\) (now considered a variable)

Derivation From The Fourier Transform

Here is a great video explaining where the integral for the Laplace Transform comes from. From the video he says, 'The Laplace Transform is a generalized, one-sided weighted Fourier Transform for badly behaved functions.' So if you understand Fourier Transforms, this derivation will make sense.

Steve Brunton - The Laplace Transform: A Generalized Fourier Transform [16mins-27secs]

video by Steve Brunton

Overview

This takes some thinking and getting used to. So let's start off by watching some videos. There is some duplication coming up but you really need to have that repetition in order to get your head around this concept.

This first video is a quick overview with some calculations to get you started. Do not worry too much about understanding everything here since we will revisit these concepts very soon. Just get the big picture.

Dr Chris Tisdell - Intro to Laplace transform and how to calculate them [8min-48secs]

video by Dr Chris Tisdell

Now that you have the big picture, let's start working on understanding the details of Laplace Transforms. This is a great video clip explaining this notation and the improper integral definition. It is relatively short but is packed with good information including explaining notation and calculating the integral.

Dr Chris Tisdell - Introduction to Laplace transforms (part 1) [5min-35secs]

video by Dr Chris Tisdell

Okay, as explained in that video, the Laplace Transform can only be used when the improper integral converges. So the next question is, what kind of functions can the Laplace Transform be applied to?

Piecewise Continuous Functions

This video clip explains one very important type of function, a piecewise continuous function, where the Laplace Transform really helps us.

Dr Chris Tisdell - Introduction to Laplace transforms (part 2) [2min-56secs]

video by Dr Chris Tisdell

Now, from that last video, you can tell from his graph that a piecewise continuous function is NOT a piecewise function that is continuous.   It is a piecewise function that has sections that are continuous, like Plot 1.   Applying the Laplace Transform to these kind of functions is where the Laplace Transform really shines.

Also notice in the last video, that he calculated the Laplace Transform of \(\cos(x)\) and \(\sin(x)\) without using the improper integral directly, which would require integration by parts.   That is one of the powerful things about Laplace Transforms.

Table of Laplace Transforms

Fortunately, you are probably not going to be asked to use the improper integral at the top of the page to calculate most Laplace Transforms. You will use a Laplace Transform that you know and derive what you are looking for. In order to do that, you will usually be given a table of Laplace Transforms. These will also be used to get the inverse Laplace Transform (since no direct method exists that we can understand at this level of mathematics).

This video clip finishes the video shown previously and demonstrates how to use tables of Laplace Transforms.

Dr Chris Tisdell - Introduction to Laplace transforms (part 3) [13min-47secs]

video by Dr Chris Tisdell

Okay, now that you see the importance of tables for Laplace Transforms, you are probably expecting to see a table, right? Well, here is where you can find one. We highly recommend this book. It is free for you to download.
Engineering Math Workbook by Dr Chris Tisdell

Here is a list of some Laplace Transforms. We suggest you build your own list based on these, the workbook above and the pages listed in the resouces panel.

Laplace Transforms Table

Laplace Transforms

\( f(t) \)

\(\displaystyle{ F(s) }\)

Practice

Basic Functions

\( t^n, ~ n = 1, 2, 3, \ldots \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{n!}{s^{n+1}} }\)

650

\( e^{at} \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{1}{s-a} }\)

3604

\( \sin(\alpha t) \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{\alpha}{s^2 + \alpha^2} }\)

652

\( \cos(at) \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{s}{s^2 + a^2} }\)

\( \sinh(at) \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{a}{s^2 - a^2} }\)

\( \cosh(at) \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{s}{s^2 - a^2} }\)

3607, 655

Special Functions

\( \delta(t) \) unit impulse

\( 1 \)

\( \delta(t-\tau) \) shifted unit impulse

\( e^{-\tau s} \)

\( u(t) \) unit step

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{1}{s} }\)

\( u(t-\tau) \) shifted unit step

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{1}{s} e^{-\tau s} }\)

Combined Functions

\( e^{at}\sin(\alpha t) \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{\alpha}{(s-a)^2 + \alpha^2} }\)

\( f(t)u(t-a) \)

\(\displaystyle{ e^{-sa} \mathcal{L}\{ f(t+a) \} }\)

\( t^n e^{at}, ~ n = 1, 2, 3, \ldots \)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{n!}{(s-a)^{n+1}} \} }\)

Derivatives and Integrals

\( f'(t) \)

\( sF(s) - f(0) \)

\( f''(t) \)

\( s^2F(s) - sf(0) - f'(0) \)

\(\displaystyle{ f^{(n)}(t) }\)

\(\displaystyle{ s^nF(s) - s^{n-1}f(0) - }\) \(\displaystyle{ s^{n-2}f'(0) - . . . - f^{(n-1)}(0) }\)

\( \int_0^t{ f(v)~dv }\)

\(\displaystyle{ \frac{F(s)}{s} }\)

Examples

Okay, let's look at a couple of examples. Try them on your own first. The tools you need are
1. the definition of the Laplace Transform at the top of the page
2. improper integral techniques (Make sure you use correct notation including the limit.)
3. integration by substitution
4. integration by parts
You should know all these techniques by now, so you know how to do these calculations. The solutions are shown in video clips.

Example 1

Calculate the Laplace Transform of \(\displaystyle{ f(t) = e^{-at} }\).

This video clip shows the step-by-step solution. It also demonstrates the incredible power of the Laplace Transform. It is a little longer than the previous two video clips but make sure and watch the entire clip. Your time will be well spent.

Dr Chris Tisdell - Introduction to Laplace transforms (part 4) [21min-49secs]

video by Dr Chris Tisdell

Example 2

Calculate the Laplace Transform of \(tf(t)\).

Before you go to the practice problems, watch this video showing how to calculate the Laplace transform of \(tf(t)\). Yes, this probably appears your table, but it will help you get a better feel for Laplace transforms if you work through this video with the instructor. (If you feel adventurous, try working it on your own before watching the video. There is nothing new here, just an improper integral that uses integration by parts.)

Dr Chris Tisdell - Laplace Transform of tf(t) [7min-24secs]

video by Dr Chris Tisdell

Laplace Transform of a Periodic Function

A useful concept of the Laplace Transform is how it works with periodic functions. Periodic functions are, of course, functions that repeat in a periodic fashion. You've seen periodic functions in trigonometry. Sine and cosine are both periodic with period \(T=2\pi\).

The equation to find the Laplace Transform of a periodic function \(f(t)\) with period \(T\) is \(\displaystyle{ \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} = \frac{1}{1-e^{-sT}} \int_{0}^{T}{ e^{-st}f(t)~dt } }\)

Here is a great video clip showing the derivation of the last equation. Don't skip this video. It has important information that will help you when working with Laplace Transforms.

Dr Chris Tisdell - Laplace transform: square wave [8min-51secs]

video by Dr Chris Tisdell

Before you go on, work the practice problems.   After that you need to learn how to go the other direction, i.e. when given the inverse laplace transform, how to find the original function.

The Humongous Book of Calculus Problems

Practice

Unless otherwise instructed, calculate the Laplace Transform \( F(s) = \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} \) using the integral definition.

\( f(t) = t \)

Problem Statement

For \( f(t) = t \), find the Laplace transform \( F(s) = \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} \) using the integral definition.

Solution

PatrickJMT - 650 video solution

video by PatrickJMT

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\( f(t) = e^t \)

Problem Statement

Calculate the Laplace Transform of \( f(t) = e^t \) using the integral definition.

Final Answer

\( F(s) = \dfrac{1}{s-1} \)

Problem Statement

Calculate the Laplace Transform of \( f(t) = e^t \) using the integral definition.

Solution

PatrickJMT - 4309 video solution

video by PatrickJMT

Final Answer

\( F(s) = \dfrac{1}{s-1} \)

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\( y(t) = e^{at} \), \(t \geq 0 \)

Problem Statement

Calculate the Laplace Transform of \( y(t) = e^{at} \), \(t \geq 0 \) using the integral definition.

Solution

Here are two solutions from two different instructors.

Trefor Bazett - 3604 video solution

video by Trefor Bazett

blackpenredpen - 3604 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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Calculate \( \mathcal{L}\{ \sinh(bt) \} \) using \( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{at} \} \).

Problem Statement

Calculate \( \mathcal{L}\{ \sinh(bt) \} \) using \( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{at} \} \).

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3607 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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Calculate \( \mathcal{L}\{ \cosh(bt) \} \) using \( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{at} \} \).

Problem Statement

Calculate \( \mathcal{L}\{ \cosh(bt) \} \) using \( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{at} \} \).

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3608 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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For a constant a > 0, if \( \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} = F(s) \), show that \(\displaystyle{ \mathcal{L}\{ f(at) \} = \frac{1}{a}F(s/a) }\)

Problem Statement

For a constant a > 0, if \( \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} = F(s) \), show that \(\displaystyle{ \mathcal{L}\{ f(at) \} = \frac{1}{a}F(s/a) }\)

Hint

Start by using the substitution \(u=at\) in the integral definition of the Laplace Transform.

Problem Statement

For a constant a > 0, if \( \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} = F(s) \), show that \(\displaystyle{ \mathcal{L}\{ f(at) \} = \frac{1}{a}F(s/a) }\)

Hint

Start by using the substitution \(u=at\) in the integral definition of the Laplace Transform.

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3615 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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\( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{at}f(t) \} \)

Problem Statement

\( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{at}f(t) \} \)

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3616 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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\( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{3t}\cos(2t) \} \)

Problem Statement

\( \mathcal{L}\{ e^{3t}\cos(2t) \} \)

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3618 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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\( \mathcal{L}\{ t f(t) \} \)

Problem Statement

\( \mathcal{L}\{ t f(t) \} \)

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3619 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t \sin(bt) \} \) using a table.

Problem Statement

Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t \sin(bt) \} \) using a table.

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3620 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^3 e^{2t} \} \) using a table.

Problem Statement

Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^3 e^{2t} \} \) using a table.

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3617 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^3 e^{2t} \} \) using \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n f(t) \} = (-1)^n F^{(n)}(s) \)

Problem Statement

Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^3 e^{2t} \} \) using \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n f(t) \} = (-1)^n F^{(n)}(s) \)

Hint

\( F^{(n)}(s) \) is the nth-derivative of \( F(s) \).

Problem Statement

Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^3 e^{2t} \} \) using \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n f(t) \} = (-1)^n F^{(n)}(s) \)

Hint

\( F^{(n)}(s) \) is the nth-derivative of \( F(s) \).

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3621 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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\( f(t) = e^{3t} + \cos(6t) - e^{3t}\cos(6t) \); use a table

Problem Statement

For \( f(t) = e^{3t} + \cos(6t) - e^{3t}\cos(6t) \), find the Laplace transform \( F(s) = \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} \) using a table.

Solution

Krista King Math - 653 video solution

video by Krista King Math

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Find \( \mathcal{L}\{ \sin(bt) \} \) and \( \mathcal{L}\{ \cos(bt) \} \) using Euler's Formula.

Problem Statement

Find \( \mathcal{L}\{ \sin(bt) \} \) and \( \mathcal{L}\{ \cos(bt) \} \) using Euler's Formula.

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3606 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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\( f(t) = \sin(3t) \)

Problem Statement

For \( f(t) = \sin(3t) \), find the Laplace transform \( F(s) = \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} \) using the integral definition.

Solution

Krista King Math - 652 video solution

video by Krista King Math

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\( f(t) = t \cosh(3t) \)

Problem Statement

For \( f(t) = t \cosh(3t) \), find the Laplace transform using the integral definition.

Solution

Krista King Math - 655 video solution

video by Krista King Math

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\( \mathcal{L}\{ f(t)/t \} \)

Problem Statement

\( \mathcal{L}\{ f(t)/t \} \)

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3622 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ \sin(t)/t \} \) using a table.

Problem Statement

Evaluate \( \mathcal{L}\{ \sin(t)/t \} \) using a table.

Solution

blackpenredpen - 3623 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

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\( f(t) = t^n \)

Problem Statement

Calculate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n \} \)

Hint

This is tricky. Two ways are to use power series or the gamma function.

Problem Statement

Calculate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n \} \)

Final Answer

\( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n \} = \dfrac{n!}{s^{n+1}} \)

Problem Statement

Calculate \( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n \} \)

Hint

This is tricky. Two ways are to use power series or the gamma function.

Solution

The first video uses the power series expansion of \(e^x\) and the steps to the solution are non-intuitive. The second video requires understanding of the gamma function.

blackpenredpen - 3605 video solution

video by blackpenredpen

Trefor Bazett - 3605 video solution

video by Trefor Bazett

Final Answer

\( \mathcal{L}\{ t^n \} = \dfrac{n!}{s^{n+1}} \)

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The Laplace Transform

Derivation From The Fourier Transform

Overview

Piecewise Continuous Functions

Table of Laplace Transforms

Examples

Laplace Transform of a Periodic Function

Practice

next: inverse laplace transforms →

Practice Search
next: inverse laplace transforms →

Practice Instructions

Unless otherwise instructed, calculate the Laplace Transform \( F(s) = \mathcal{L}\{ f(t) \} \) using the integral definition.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

When using the material on this site, check with your instructor to see what they require. Their requirements come first, so make sure your notation and work follow their specifications.

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