Tips & Tricks

Athanasios Paraskevopoulos

Computing a Surface Integral on a Sphere Using MATLAB

Athanasios Paraskevopoulos on 29 Mar 2024

To solve a surface integral for example the over the sphere easily in MATLAB, you can leverage the symbolic toolbox for a direct and clear solution. Here is a tip to simplify the process:
  1. Use Symbolic Variables and Functions: Define your variables symbolically, including the parameters of your spherical coordinates θ and ϕ and the radius r . This allows MATLAB to handle the expressions symbolically, making it easier to manipulate and integrate them.
  2. Express in Spherical Coordinates Directly: Since you already know the sphere's equation and the relationship in spherical coordinates, define x, y, and z in terms of r , θ and ϕ directly.
  3. Perform Symbolic Integration: Use MATLAB's `int` function to integrate symbolically. Since the sphere and the function are symmetric, you can exploit these symmetries to simplify the calculation.
Here’s how you can apply this tip in MATLAB code:
% Include the symbolic math toolbox
syms theta phi
% Define the limits for theta and phi
theta_limits = [0, pi];
phi_limits = [0, 2*pi];
% Define the integrand function symbolically
integrand = 16 * sin(theta)^3 * cos(phi)^2;
% Perform the symbolic integral for the surface integral
surface_integral = int(int(integrand, theta, theta_limits(1), theta_limits(2)), phi, phi_limits(1), phi_limits(2));
% Display the result of the surface integral symbolically
disp(['The surface integral of x^2 over the sphere is ', char(surface_integral)]);
% Number of points for plotting
num_points = 100;
% Define theta and phi for the sphere's surface
[theta_mesh, phi_mesh] = meshgrid(linspace(double(theta_limits(1)), double(theta_limits(2)), num_points), ...
linspace(double(phi_limits(1)), double(phi_limits(2)), num_points));
% Spherical to Cartesian conversion for plotting
r = 2; % radius of the sphere
x = r * sin(theta_mesh) .* cos(phi_mesh);
y = r * sin(theta_mesh) .* sin(phi_mesh);
z = r * cos(theta_mesh);
% Plot the sphere
surf(x, y, z, 'FaceColor', 'interp', 'EdgeColor', 'none');
colormap('jet'); % Color scheme
shading interp; % Smooth shading
camlight headlight; % Add headlight-type lighting
lighting gouraud; % Use Gouraud shading for smooth color transitions
title('Sphere: x^2 + y^2 + z^2 = 4');
colorbar; % Add color bar to indicate height values
axis square; % Maintain aspect ratio to be square
view([-30, 20]); % Set a nice viewing angle