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Seperation of variables in the Schrodinger equation

  1. Mar 28, 2010 #1
    hey guys first post so sorry if this has already been asked :S

    what exactly is meant by the seperation of variables in the schrodinger equation? also what co-ordinate system would i use to solve for an electron in a hydrogen-like ion?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2010 #2


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    Welcome to Physics Forums, Sonko.

    Separation of variable is a technique used to solve differential equations. In terms of partial differential equations one would assume that a function of two variables, say [itex]\Psi\left(x,t\right)[/itex] can be written as a product of two functions of single variables, say [itex]\psi\left(x\right)[/itex] and [itex]\phi\left(t\right)[/itex]. If this assumption is applicable, i.e. if the equation is separable, you can reduce the partial differential equation for two variables into two ordinary differential equations for one variable - one equation for each function and associated variable. Try search for "separation of variables" for more information.

    In terms of solving the Schrödinger equation for hydrogen-like ions, you will have a spherically symmetric potential. Therefore, it will be best to solve Schrödinger's equation in spherical coordinates.
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