Oblate Spheroidal Coordinates

Oblate spheroidal coordinates are a three-dimensional orthogonal coordinate system that results from rotating the two-dimensional elliptic coordinate system about the non-focal axis of the ellipse, i.e., the symmetry axis that separates the foci. Thus, the two foci are transformed into a ring of radius in the x-y plane. (Rotation about the other axis produces the prolate spheroidal coordinates.) Oblate spheroidal coordinates can also be considered as a limiting case of ellipsoidal coordinates in which the two largest semi-axes are equal in length.

Oblate spheroidal coordinates are often useful in solving partial differential equations when the boundary conditions are defined on an oblate spheroid or a hyperboloid of revolution. For example, they played an important role in the calculation of the Perrin friction factors, which contributed to the awarding of the 1926 Nobel Prize in Physics to Jean Baptiste Perrin. These friction factors determine the rotational diffusion of molecules, which affects the feasibility of many techniques such as protein NMR and from which the hydrodynamic volume and shape of molecules can be inferred. Oblate spheroidal coordinates are also useful in problems of electromagnetism (e.g., dielectric constant of charged oblate molecules), acoustics (e.g., scattering of sound through a circular hole), fluid dynamics (e.g., the flow of water through a firehose nozzle) and the diffusion of materials and heat (e.g., cooling of a red-hot coin in a water bath).

Read more about Oblate Spheroidal CoordinatesDefinition (μ, ν, φ), Definition (ζ, ξ, φ), Definition (σ, τ, φ)

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