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I’ve just uploaded to the arXiv my paper “A global compact attractor for high-dimensional defocusing non-linear Schrödinger equations with potential“, submitted to Dynamics of PDE. This paper continues some earlier work of myself in an attempt to understand the soliton resolution conjecture for various nonlinear dispersive equations, and in particular, nonlinear Schrödinger equations (NLS). This conjecture (which I also discussed in my third Simons lecture) asserts, roughly speaking, that any reasonable (e.g. bounded energy) solution to such equations eventually resolves into a superposition of a radiation component (which behaves like a solution to the linear Schrödinger equation) plus a finite number of “nonlinear bound states” or “solitons”. This conjecture is known in many perturbative cases (when the solution is close to a special solution, such as the vacuum state or a ground state) as well as in defocusing cases (in which no non-trivial bound states or solitons exist), but is still almost completely open in non-perturbative situations (in which the solution is large and not close to a special solution) which contain at least one bound state. In my earlier papers, I was able to show that for certain NLS models in sufficiently high dimension, one could at least say that such solutions resolved into a radiation term plus a finite number of “weakly bound” states whose evolution was essentially almost periodic (or almost periodic modulo translation symmetries). These bound states also enjoyed various additional decay and regularity properties. As a consequence of this, in five and higher dimensions (and for reasonable nonlinearities), and assuming spherical symmetry, I showed that there was a (local) compact attractor K_E for the flow: any solution with energy bounded by some given level E would eventually decouple into a radiation term, plus a state which converged to this compact attractor K_E. In that result, I did not rule out the possibility that this attractor depended on the energy E. Indeed, it is conceivable for many models that there exist nonlinear bound states of arbitrarily high energy, which would mean that K_E must increase in size as E increases to accommodate these states. (I discuss these results in a recent talk of mine.)

In my new paper, following a suggestion of Michael Weinstein, I consider the NLS equation

i u_t + \Delta u = |u|^{p-1} u + Vu

where u: {\Bbb R} \times {\Bbb R}^d \to {\Bbb C} is the solution, and V \in C^\infty_0({\Bbb R}^d) is a smooth compactly supported real potential. We make the standard assumption 1 + \frac{4}{d} < p < 1 + \frac{4}{d-2} (which is asserting that the nonlinearity is mass-supercritical and energy-subcritical). In the absence of this potential (i.e. when V=0), this is the defocusing nonlinear Schrödinger equation, which is known to have no bound states, and in fact it is known in this case that all finite energy solutions eventually scatter into a radiation state (which asymptotically resembles a solution to the linear Schrödinger equation). However, once one adds a potential (particularly one which is large and negative), both linear bound states (solutions to the linear eigenstate equation (-\Delta + V) Q = -E Q) and nonlinear bound states (solutions to the nonlinear eigenstate equation (-\Delta+V)Q = -EQ - |Q|^{p-1} Q) can appear. Thus in this case the soliton resolution conjecture predicts that solutions should resolve into a scattering state (that behaves as if the potential was not present), plus a finite number of (nonlinear) bound states. There is a fair amount of work towards this conjecture for this model in perturbative cases (when the energy is small), but the case of large energy solutions is still open.

In my new paper, I consider the large energy case, assuming spherical symmetry. For technical reasons, I also need to assume very high dimension d \geq 11. The main result is the existence of a global compact attractor K: every finite energy solution, no matter how large, eventually resolves into a scattering state and a state which converges to K. In particular, since K is bounded, all but a bounded amount of energy will be radiated off to infinity. Another corollary of this result is that the space of all nonlinear bound states for this model is compact. Intuitively, the point is that when the solution gets very large, the defocusing nonlinearity dominates any attractive aspects of the potential V, and so the solution will disperse in this case; thus one expects the only bound states to be bounded. The spherical symmetry assumption also restricts the bound states to lie near the origin, thus yielding the compactness. (It is also conceivable that the localised nature of V also restricts bound states to lie near the origin, even without the help of spherical symmetry, but I was not able to establish this rigorously.)

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