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Multiple integral

Integral as area between two curves.

The multiple integral is a type of definite integral extended to functions of
more than one real variable, for example, f(x, y) or f(x, y, z).

Double integral as volume under a surface. The rectangular region at the

bottom of the body is the domain of integration, while the surface is the
graph of the two-variable function to be integrated.

• 1 Introduction
• 2 Examples
• 3 Mathematical definition
o 3.1 Properties
o 3.2 Particular cases
• 4 Methods of integration
o 4.1 Direct examination
 4.1.1 Constants
 4.1.2 Use of the possible symmetries
o 4.2 Formulae of reduction
 4.2.1 Normal domains on R
 x-axis
 y-axis
 Example
 4.2.2 Normal domains on R
o 4.3 Change of variables
 4.3.1 Polar coordinates
 4.3.2 Cylindrical coordinates
 4.3.3 Spherical coordinates
• 5 Example of mathematical applications - Computing a volume
• 6 Multiple improper integral
• 7 Multiple integrals and iterated integrals
• 8 Some practical applications
• 9 See also
• 10 References

• 11 External links
Just as the definite integral of a positive function of one variable
represents the area of the region between the graph of the function
and the x-axis, the double integral of a positive function of two
variables represents the volume of the region between the surface
defined by the function (on the three dimensional Cartesian plane
where z = f(x,y)) and the plane which contains its domain. (Note
that the same volume can be obtained via the triple integral — the
integral of a function in three variables — of the constant function
f(x, y, z) = 1 over the above-mentioned region between the surface
and the plane.) If there are more variables, a multiple integral will
yield hypervolumes of multi-dimensional functions.

Multiple integration of a function in n variables: f(x1, x2, …, xn)

over a domain D is most commonly represented by nesting integral
signs in the reverse order of execution (the leftmost integral sign is
computed last) proceeded by the function and integrand arguments
in proper order (the rightmost argument is computed last). The
domain of integration is either represented symbolically for every
integrand over each integral sign, or is often abbreviated by a
variable at the rightmost integral sign:

Since it is impossible to calculate the antiderivative of a function

of more than one variable, indefinite multiple integrals do not exist.
Therefore all multiple integrals are definite integrals.

For example, the volume of the parallelepiped of sides 4 × 6 × 5
may be obtained in two ways:
• By the double integral

of the function f(x, y) = 5 calculated in the region D in the xy-

plane which is the base of the parallelepiped.

• By the triple integral

of the constant function 1 calculated on the parallelepiped


Mathematical definition
Let n be an integer greater than 1. Consider a so-called half-open n-
dimensional rectangle (from here on simply called rectangle). For a plane, n
= 2, and the multiple integral is just a double integral.

Divide each interval (ai, bi) into a finite number of non-overlapping

subintervals, with each subinterval closed at the left end, and open at the
right end. Denote such a subinterval by Ii. Then, the family of subrectangles
of the form

is a partition of T that is, the subrectangles C are non-overlapping and their

union is T. The diameter of a subrectangle C is, by definition, the largest of
the lengths of the intervals whose product is C, and the diameter of a given
partition of T is defined as the largest of the diameters of the subrectangles
in the partition.
Let f : T → R be a function defined on a rectangle T. Consider a partition

of T defined as above, where m is a positive integer. A Riemann sum is a

sum of the form

where for each k the point Pk is in Ck and m(Ck) is the product of the lengths
of the intervals whose Cartesian product is Ck.

The function f is said to be Riemann integrable if the limit

exists, where the limit is taken over all possible partitions of T of diameter at
most δ. If f is Riemann integrable, S is called the Riemann integral of f over
T and is denoted

The Riemann integral of a function defined over an arbitrary bounded n-

dimensional set can be defined by extending that function to a function
defined over a half-open rectangle whose values are zero outside the domain
of the original function. Then, the integral of the original function over the
original domain is defined to be the integral of the extended function over its
rectangular domain, if it exists.

In what follows the Riemann integral in n dimensions will be called

multiple integral.

Multiple integrals have many of the same properties of integrals of
functions of one variable (linearity, additivity, monotonicity, etc.).
Moreover, just as in one variable, one can use the multiple integral
to find the average of a function over a given set. More
specifically, given a set D ⊆ Rn and an integrable function f over
D, the average value of f over its domain is given by

where m(D) is the measure of D.

Particular cases

In the case of T ⊆ R2, the integral

is the double integral of f on T, and if T ⊆ R3 the integral

is the triple integral of f on T.

Notice that, by convention, the double integral has two integral

signs, and the triple integral has three; this is just notational
convenience, and comes handy when computing a multiple integral
as an iterated integral (as shown later in the article).

Methods of integration
The resolution of problems with multiple integrals consists in most of cases
in finding the way to reduce the multiple integral to a series of integrals of
one variable, each being directly solvable.

Direct examination

Sometimes, it is possible to obtain the result of the integration without any

direct calculations.


In the case of a constant function, the result is straightforward: simply

multiply the measure by the constant function c. If c = 1, and is integrated
over a sub region of R2 the product gives the area of the region, while in R3
it is the volume of the region.

• For example:

Let us integrate f over D:

Use of the possible symmetries

In the case of a domain where there are symmetries respecting at least one of
the axes and where the function has at least one parity in respect to a
variable, the integral becomes null (the sum of opposite and equal values is

It is sufficient that - in functions on Rn - the dependent variable is odd with

the symmetric axis.

• Example (1):

Given f(x, y) = 2 sin x − 3y3 + 5 and T = x2 + y2 ≤ 1 the integration area

(a disc with radius 1 centered in the origin of the axes, boundary
Using the property of linearity, the integral can be decomposed in
three pieces:
2  sin x and 3y3 are both odd functions and moreover it is evident that
the T disc has a symmetry for the x and even the y axis; therefore the
only contribution to the final result of the integral is that of the
constant function 5 because the other two pieces are null.

• Example (2):

Consider the function f(x, y, z) = x   exp(y2 + z2) and as integration

region the sphere with radius 2 centered in the origin of the axes T =
x2 + y2 + z2 ≤ 4. The "ball" is symmetric about all three axes, but it is
sufficient to integrate with respect to x-axis to show that the integral is
0, because the function is an odd function of that variable.

Formulae of reduction
Formulae of reduction use the concept of simple domain to make possible
the decomposition of the multiple integral as a product of other one-variable
integrals. These have to be solved from the right to the left considering the
other variables as constants (which is the same procedure as the calculus of
partial derivatives).

Normal domains on R2

x -axis

If D is a measurable domain perpendicular to the x-axis and is

a continuous function; then α(x) and β(x) (defined in the [a,b] interval) are
the two functions that determine D. Then:


If D is a measurable domain perpendicular to the y-axis and is

a continuous function; then α(y) and β(y) (defined in the [a,b] interval) are
the two functions that determine D. Then:

Example: D region for integral by reduction's formulas.

Consider this region: (please
see the graphic in the example). Calculate

This domain is perpendicular to both the x and to the y axes. To apply

the formulas you have to find the functions that determine D and its
definition's interval.
In this case the two functions are:
while the interval is given from the intersections of the functions with
, so the interval is (normality has been chosen with
respect to the x axis for a better visual understanding).
It's now possible to apply the formulas:

(at first the second integral is calculated considering x as a constant).

The remaining operations consist of applying the basic techniques of
If we choose the normality in respect to the y axis we could calculate

and obtain the same value.

Example of a normal domain in R3 (xy-plane).

Normal domains on R3
The extension of these formulae to triple integrals should be apparent:

T is a domain perpendicular to the xy-plane respect to the α (x, y, z) and β(x,

y, z) functions. Then:

(this definition is the same for the other five normality cases on R3).

Change of variables
The limits of integration are often not easily interchangeable
(without normality or with complex formulae to integrate), one
makes a change of variables to rewrite the integral in a more
"comfortable" region, which can be described in simpler formulae.
To do so, the function must be adapted to the new coordinates.

Example (1-a):
The function is ;
if one adopts this substitution therefore

one obtains the new function .

• Similarly for the domain because it is delimited by the

original variables that were transformed before (x and y in
• the differentials dx and dy transform via the determinant of
the Jacobian matrix containing the partial derivatives of the
transformations regarding the new variable (consider, as an
example, the differential transformation in polar coordinates).

There exist three main "kinds" of changes of variable (one in R2,

two in R3); however, a suitable substitution can be found using the
same principle in a more general way.

Polar coordinates
Transformation from Cartesian to polar coordinates.

In R2 if the domain has a circular "symmetry" and the function has some
"particular" characteristics you can apply the transformation to polar
coordinates (see the example in the picture) which means that the generic
points P(x,y) in cartesian coordinates switch to their respective points in
polar coordinates. That allows one to change the "shape" of the domain and
simplify the operations.

The fundamental relation to make the transformation is the following:

Example (2-a):

The function is
and applying the transformation one obtains

Example (2-b):

The function is
In this case one has:

using the Pythagorean trigonometric identity (very useful to simplify

this operation).

The transformation of the domain is made by defining the radius' crown

length and the amplitude of the described angle to define the ρ, φ intervals
starting from x, y.
Example of a domain transformation from cartesian to polar.

Example (2-c):

The domain is , that is a circumference of radius 2;

it's evident that the covered angle is the circle angle, so φ varies from
0 to 2π, while the crown radius varies from 0 to 2 (the crown with the
inside radius null is just a circle).

Example (2-d):

The domain is , that is the

circular crown in the positive y half-plane (please see the picture in
the example); note that φ describes a plane angle while ρ varies from
2 to 3. Therefore the transformed domain will be the following

The Jacobian determinant of that transformation is the following:

which has been obtained by inserting the partial derivatives of x = ρ cos(φ),

y = ρ sin(φ) in the first column respect to ρ and in the second respect to φ, so
the dx dy differentials in this transformation becomes ρ dρ dφ.
Once the function is transformed and the domain evaluated, it is possible to
define the formula for the change of variables in polar coordinates:

Please note that φ is valid in the [0, 2π] interval while ρ, which is a measure
of a length, can only have positive values.

Example (2-e):

The function is and as the domain the same in 2-d

From the previous analysis of D we know the intervals of ρ (from 2 to
3) and of φ (from 0 to π). Now let's change the function:

finally let's apply the integration formula:

Once the intervals are known, you have

Cylindrical coordinates
Cylindrical coordinates.

In R3 the integration on domains with a circular base can be made by the

passage in cylindrical coordinates; the transformation of the function is
made by the following relation:

The domain transformation can be graphically attained, because only the

shape of the base varies, while the height follows the shape of the starting

Example (3-a):

The region is (that is

the "tube" whose base is the circular crown of the 2-d example and
whose height is 5); if the transformation is applied, this region is
obtained: (that is the
parallelepiped whose base is the rectangle in 2-d example and whose
height is 5).

Because the z component is unvaried during the transformation, the dx dy dz

differentials vary as in the passage in polar coordinates: therefore, they
become ρ dρ dφ dz.

Finally, it is possible to apply the final formula to cylindrical coordinates:

This method is convenient in case of cylindrical or conical domains or in
regions where is easy to individuate the z interval and even transform the
circular base and the function.

Example (3-b):

The function is and as integration domain

this cylinder: .
The transformation of D in cylindrical coordinates is the following:

while the function becomes

Finally you can apply the integration's formula:

developing the formula you have

Spherical coordinates

Spherical coordinates.

In R3 some domains have a spherical symmetry, so it's possible to specify

the coordinates of every point of the integration region by two angles and
one distance. It's possible to use therefore the passage in spherical
coordinates; the function is transformed by this relation:
Note that points on z axis do not have a precise characterization in spherical
coordinates, so φ can vary between 0 to π .

The better integration domain for this passage is obviously the sphere.

Example (4-a):

The domain is (sphere with radius 4 and

center in the origin); applying the transformation you get this region:

The Jacobian determinant of this transformation is the following:

The dx dy dz differentials therefore are transformed to ρ2 sin(φ) dρ dθ

Finally you obtain the final integration formula:

It's better to use this method in case of spherical domains and in case
of functions that can be easily simplified, by the first fundamental
relation of trigonometry, extended in R3 (please see example 4-b); in
other cases it can be better to use cylindrical coordinates (please see
example 4-c).

Note that the extra ρ2 and sinφ come from the Jacobian.

Note that in the following examples the roles of φ and θ have been reversed.

Example (4-b):

D is the same region of the 4-a example and

is the function to integrate.
Its transformation is very easy:
while we know the intervals of the transformed region T from D:

Let's therefore apply the integration's formula:

and, developing, we get

Example (4-c):

The domain D is the ball with center in the origin and radius 3a (
) and is the function
to integrate.
Looking at the domain, it seems convenient to adopt the passage in
spherical coordinates, in fact, the intervals of the variables that delimit
the new T region are obviously:

However, applying the transformation, we get

Applying the formula for integration we would obtain:

which is very hard to solve. This problem will be solved by using the
passage in cylindrical coordinates. The new T intervals are

the z interval has been obtained by dividing the ball in two

hemispheres simply by solving the inequality from the formula of D
(and then directly transforming x2 + y2 in ρ2). The new function is
simply ρ2. Applying the integration formula

Then we get
Now let's apply the transformation

(the new intervals become ). We get

because , we get

after inverting the integration's bounds and multiplying the terms

between parenthesis, it is possible to decompose the integral in two
parts that can be directly solved:

Thanks to the passage in cylindrical coordinates it was possible to

reduce the triple integral to an easier one-variable integral.

See also the differential volume entry in nabla in cylindrical and spherical

Example of mathematical
applications - Computing a
Thanks to the methods previously described it is possible to demonstrate the
value of the volume of some solid volumes.

• Cylinder: Consider the domain as the circular base of radius R and

the function as a constant of the height h. It is possible to write this in
polar coordinates like so:
Verification: Volume = base area * height =

• Sphere: Is a ready demonstration of applying the passage in spherical

coordinates of the integrated constant function 1 on the sphere of the
same radius R:

• Tetrahedron (triangular pyramid or 3-simplex): The volume of the

tetrahedron with apex in the origin and chines of length l carefully lay
down to you on the three cartesian axes can be calculated through the
reduction formulas considering, as an example, normality regarding
the plan xy and to axis x and like function constant 1.

Verification: Volume = base area × height/3 =

Example of an improper domain.

Multiple improper integral
In case of unbounded domains or functions not bounded near the boundary
of the domain, we have to introduce the double improper integral or the
triple improper integral.

Multiple integrals and iterated


Fubini's theorem states that if

that is, the integral is absolutely convergent, then the multiple integral will
give the same result as the iterated integral,

In particular this will occur if | f(x,y) | is a bounded function and A and B are
bounded sets.

If the integral is not absolutely convergent, care is needed not to confuse the
concepts of multiple integral and iterated integral, especially since the same
notation is often used for either concept. The notation

means, in some cases, an iterated integral rather than a true double integral.
In an iterated integral, the outer integral

is the integral with respect to x of the following function of x:

A double integral, on the other hand, is defined with respect to area in the
xy-plane. If the double integral exists, then it is equal to each of the two
iterated integrals (either "dy dx" or "dx dy") and one often computes it by
computing either of the iterated integrals. But sometimes the two iterated
integrals exist when the double integral does not, and in some such cases the
two iterated integrals are different numbers, i.e., one has

This is an instance of rearrangement of a conditionally convergent integral.

The notation

may be used if one wishes to be emphatic about intending a double integral

rather than an iterated integral.

Some practical applications

These integrals are used in many applications in physics.

In mechanics the moment of inertia is calculated as volume

integral (that is a triple integral) of the density weighed with the
square of the distance from the axis:
In electromagnetism, Maxwell's equations can be written by means
of multiple integrals to calculate the total magnetic and electric
fields. In the following example, the electric field produced by a
distribution of charges is obtained by a triple integral of a vector