Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 February 2011
This chapter gives an informal introduction to hybrid dynamical systems and illustrates by simple examples the main phenomena that are encountered due to the interaction of continuous and discrete dynamics. References to numerous applications show the practical importance of hybrid systems theory.
What is a hybrid system?
Wherever continuous and discrete dynamics interact, hybrid systems arise. This is especially profound in many technological systems, in which logic decision making and embedded control actions are combined with continuous physical processes. To capture the evolution of these systems, mathematical models are needed that combine in one way or another the dynamics of the continuous parts of the system with the dynamics of the logic and discrete parts. These mathematical models come in all kinds of variations, but basically consist of some form of differential or difference equations on the one hand and automata or other discrete-event models on the other hand. The collection of analysis and synthesis techniques based on these models forms the research area of hybrid systems theory, which plays an important role in the multi-disciplinary design of many technological systems that surround us.
Three reasons to study hybrid systems
The reasons to study hybrid systems can be quite diverse. Here we will provide three sources of motivation, which are related to (i) the design of technological systems, (ii) networked control systems, and (iii) physical processes exhibiting non-smooth behavior.