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When dealing with operations on polynomials, the term rational function is a simple way to describe a particular relationship between two polynomials.
In order to see what makes rational functions special, let us look at some of their basic properties and characteristics.If you are familiar with rational functions and basic algebraic properties, skip to the next section to see howrational functions are useful when dealing with the Laplace transform.
To understand many of the following characteristics of a rational function, one must begin by finding the roots ofthe rational function. In order to do this, let us factor both of the polynomials so that the roots can be easily determined.Like all polynomials, the roots will provide us with information on many key properties. The function belowshows the results of factoring the above rational function, [link] .
Thus, the roots of the rational function are as follows:
Roots of the numerator are: $\{-2, 2\}$
Roots of the denominator are: $\{-3, 1\}$
Because we are dealing with division of two polynomials, we
must be aware of the values of the variable that will causethe denominator of our fraction to be zero. When this
happens, the rational function becomes undefined,
Continuing to look at our rational function above, [link] , we can see that the function will have discontinuities at the followingpoints: $x=\{-3, 1\}()$
In respect to the Cartesian plane, we say that the discontinuities are the values along the x-axis where thefunction is undefined. These discontinuities often appear as vertical asymptotes on the graph to represent the values where the function is undefined.
Using the roots that we found above, the domain of the rational function can be easily defined.
The
x-intercept is defined as the point(s) where
$f(x)$ ,
The y-intercept occurs whenever $x$ equals zero. This can be found by setting all the values of $x$ equal to zero and solving the rational function.
Rational functions often result when the Laplace transform is used to compute transfer functions for LTI systems. When using the Laplace transform to solve linear constant coefficient ordinary differential equations, partial fraction expansions of rational functions prove particularly useful. The roots of the polynomials in the numerator and denominator of the transfer function play an important role in describing system behavior. The roots of the polynomial in the numerator produce zeros of the transfer function where the system produces no output for an input of that complex frequency. The roots of the polynomial in the denominator produce poles of the transfer function where the system has natural frequencies of oscillation.
Once we have used our knowledge of rational functions to find its roots, we can manipulate a Laplace transform in a number of usefulways. We can apply this knowledge by representing an LTI system graphically through a pole-zero plot for analysis or design.
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