In 1990, Pucci and Serrin have used similar identities to extend to the semilinear
Dirichlet problem on a ball for polyharmonic operators (with n 2K and s =
(n + 2K)/(n 2K))
u = λu +
in B
u = Du = . . . =
= 0 on ∂B
a famous result of Brezis-Nirenberg when K = 1, recovering existence of non-trivial
solutions by addition of a linear term. Pucci and Serrin have shown that, when
K 2, the lower bound of λ for which a positive solution exists is positive for some
critical dimensions, for example, if K = 2, when n = 5, 6, 7.
Even if their main contributions deal with partial differential equations, Pucci
and Serrin have devoted between 1989 and 1995 a dozen of papers to the study
of continuation, asymptotic behavior and stability of solutions of some nonlinear
ordinary differential equations and systems of the second order of the form
(A(u )u ) + δ(r)A(u )u + f(r, u) = 0.
Special emphasis is made upon systems having a variational structure or coming
from radial solutions of some quasilinear partial differential equations. Special cases
are the Lane-Emden, Emden-fowler, and Haraux-Weissler equations. The obtained
conditions are related to, and substantially generalize in several directions, earlier
work of Arstein-Infante, Levin-Nohel, Salvadori, Thurston-Wong, Ballieu-Peiffer
and others. The underlying technique is based upon the construction Lyapunov
functions based upon the use of Pucci-Serrin’s variational identity. The results pro-
vide in many cases sharp sufficient conditions, especially on the damping term, for
obtaining various types of asymptotic behavior. In particular, asymptotic stability
can hold when the damping is intermittently suppressed. Studies in this direction
have been pursued by Giovanni Leoni, a student of Serrin, in a series of papers
which include a joint one with Maria Manfredini and Pucci.
It is not too surprising that this work has also inspired to our authors, between
1996 and 1998, the obtention of various asymptotic stability and non continuation
conditions for some classes of evolution equations in Banach spaces, like dissipative
wave systems
utt Δu + Q(t, x, u, ut) + f(x, u) = 0,
nonlinear parabolic systems
= Δu f(x, u),
and abstract evolution equations
[P (u (t))] + A(u(t)) + Q(t, u (t)) + F (u(t)) = 0.
Another interesting question, considered in two papers of 1998 by Pucci and
Serrin, is the study of some properties of ground states for quasilinear elliptic op-
erators. From uniqueness conditions for the positive solutions u = u(r) of ordinary
differential problems of the form
|)u ] = f
in R+, u (0) = 0 = u(∞),
linked to the radial solutions of the elliptic equation
−div (g(|Du|)Du) = f(u) in
they have obained uniqueness conditions for the ground state solutions under con-
ditions which, in the important cases where g(t) =
(m 1), f(t) =

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