Partial fraction decomposition

In algebra, the partial fraction decomposition or partial fraction expansion of a rational fraction (that is, a fraction such that the numerator and the denominator are both polynomials) is an operation that consists of expressing the fraction as a sum of a polynomial (possibly zero) and one or several fractions with a simpler denominator.[1]

The importance of the partial fraction decomposition lies in the fact that it provides algorithms for various computations with rational functions, including the explicit computation of antiderivatives,[2] Taylor series expansions, inverse Z-transforms, and inverse Laplace transforms. The concept was discovered independently in 1702 by both Johann Bernoulli and Gottfried Leibniz.[3]

In symbols, the partial fraction decomposition of a rational fraction of the form where f and g are polynomials, is its expression as

where p(x) is a polynomial, and, for each j, the denominator gj (x) is a power of an irreducible polynomial (that is not factorable into polynomials of positive degrees), and the numerator fj (x) is a polynomial of a smaller degree than the degree of this irreducible polynomial.

When explicit computation is involved, a coarser decomposition is often preferred, which consists of replacing "irreducible polynomial" by "square-free polynomial" in the description of the outcome. This allows replacing polynomial factorization by the much easier to compute square-free factorization. This is sufficient for most applications, and avoids introducing irrational coefficients when the coefficients of the input polynomials are integers or rational numbers.


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