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The Laplace Transform Operator

A particular kind of integral transformation is known as the Laplace transformation,

denoted by L. The definition of this operator is

By definition,

Integrating by parts yields

Therefore, the function F( p) = 1/ p 2 is the Laplace transform of the function f( x) = x.
[Technical note: The convergence of the improper integral here depends on p being
positive, since only then will ( x/p) e − px and e − px approach a finite limit (namely 0) as x →
∞. Therefore, the Laplace transform of f( x) = x is defined only for p > 0.]

In general, it can be shown that for any nonnegative integer n,

Like the operators D and I—indeed, like all operators—the Laplace transform operator L
acts on a function to produce another function. Furthermore, since
and

the Laplace transform operator L is also linear.

[Technical note: Just as not all functions have derivatives or integrals, not all functions
have Laplace transforms. For a function f to have a Laplace transform, it is sufficient that f(
x) be continuous (or at least piecewise continuous) for x ≥ 0 and of exponential order
(which means that for some constants c and λ, the inequality holds for all x).
Any bounded function (that is, any function f that always satisfies | f( x)| ≤ M for some M ≥
0) is automatically of exponential order (just take c = M and λ = 0 in the defining
inequality). Therefore, sin kx and cos kx each have a Laplace transform, since they are
continuous and bounded functions. Furthermore, any function of the form e kx , as well as
any polynomial, is continuous and, although unbounded, is of exponential order and
therefore has a Laplace transform. In short, most of the functions you are likely to
encounter in practice will have Laplace transforms.]

Example 2: Find the Laplace transform of the function f( x) = x 3 – 4 x + 2.

Recall form the first statement following Example 1 that the Laplace transform of f( x) = x n
is F( p) = n!/ p n + 1 . Therefore, since the Laplace transform operator L is linear,
Example 3: Determine the Laplace transform of f( x) = e kx .

Apply the definition and perform the integration:

In order for this improper integral to converge, the coefficient ( p – k) in the exponential
must be positive (recall the technical note in Example 1). Thus, for p > k, the calculation
yields
Example 4: Find the Laplace transform of f( x) = sin kx.

By definition,

so
Therefore,

for p > 0. By a similar calculation, it can be shown that

Example 5: Determine the Laplace transform of the function

pictured in Figure 1:

Figure 1

This is an example of a step function. It is not continuous, but it is piecewise continuous,

and since it is bounded, it is certainly of exponential order. Therefore, it has a Laplace
transform.
Table 1 assembles the Laplace transforms of a few of the most frequently encountered
functions, as well as some of the important properties of the Laplace transform operator L.
Example 6: Use Table 1 to find the Laplace transform of f( x) = sin 2 x.

Invoking the trigonometric identity

linearity of L implies

Example 7: Use Table 1 to find the Laplace transform of g( x) x 3 e 5x.

The presence of the factor e 5x suggests using the shifting formula with k = 5. Since
the shifting formula says that the Laplace transform of f( x) e 5x = x 3 e 5x is equal to F( P –
5). In other words, the Laplace transform of x 3 e 5x is equal to the Laplace transform of x 3
with the argument p shifted to p – 5:

Example 8: Use Table 1 to find Laplace transform of f( x) = e −2x sin x – 3.

First, since L [sin x] = 1/( p 2 + 1), the shifting formula (with k = −2) says

Now, because L[3] = 3 · L[1] = 3/ p, linearity implies

Example 9: Use Table 1 to find a continuous function whose Laplace transform is F( p) =
12/ p 5.

This example introduces the idea of the inverse Laplace transform operator,, L −1. The
operator L −1 will “un‐do” the action of L. Symbolically,

If you think of the operator L as changing f( x) into F( p), then the operator L −1 just
changes F( P) back into f( x). Like L, the inverse operator L −1 is linear.

More formally, the result of applying L −1 a function F( p) is to recover the continuous

function f( x) whose Laplace transform is the given F( p). [This situation should remind
remind you of the operators D and I (which are, basically, inverses of one another). Each
will un‐do the action of the other in the sense that if, say, I changes f( x) into F( x), then D
will change F( x) back into f( x). In other words, D = I −1, so if you apply I and then D,
you're back where you started.]

Using Table 1 (reading it from to left),

Example 10: Find the continuous function whose Laplace transform is F( p) = 1/( p 2 – 1).

By partial fraction decomposition,

Therefore, by linearity of L −1,

First, note that p has been shifted to p + 2 = p – (‐2). Therefore, since

the shifting formula (with k = −2) implies

Example 12: Evaluate

Although p 2 – 6 p + 25 cannot be factored over the integers, it can be expressed as the sum
of two squares:

Therefore,