Get access

The Stability Analysis of the Periodic Traveling Wave Solutions of the mKdV Equation


Address for correspondence: Bernard Deconinck, Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-2420, USA; e-mail:


The stability of periodic solutions of partial differential equations has been an area of increasing interest in the last decade. In this paper, we derive all periodic traveling wave solutions of the focusing and defocusing mKdV equations. We show that in the defocusing case all such solutions are orbitally stable with respect to subharmonic perturbations: perturbations that are periodic with period equal to an integer multiple of the period of the underlying solution. We do this by explicitly computing the spectrum and the corresponding eigenfunctions associated with the linear stability problem. Next, we bring into play different members of the mKdV hierarchy. Combining this with the spectral stability results allows for the construction of a Lyapunov function for the periodic traveling waves. Using the seminal results of Grillakis, Shatah, and Strauss, we are able to conclude orbital stability. In the focusing case, we show how instabilities arise.