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Exponential function

This article is about the natural exponential function ex .

For the general exponential of the form bx and any base
b, see Exponentiation. For exponentially increasing functions of the form cbx , see Exponential growth.
In mathematics, an exponential function is a function of

The exponential function is used to model a relationship in which a constant change in the independent variable gives the same proportional change (i.e. percentage increase or decrease) in the dependent variable. The
function is often written as exp(x), especially when it
is impractical to write the independent variable as a
superscript. The exponential function is widely used in
physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematical biology,
economics and mathematics.


The graph of y = ex is upward-sloping, and increases faster

as x increases. The graph always lies above the x-axis but
can get arbitrarily close to it for negative x; thus, the xaxis is a horizontal asymptote. The slope of the tangent to
the graph at each point is equal to its y-coordinate at that
point. The inverse function is the natural logarithm ln(x);
because of this, some old texts[3] refer to the exponential
function as the antilogarithm.










In general, the variable x can be any real or complex number or even an entirely dierent kind of mathematical object; see the formal denition below.

The natural exponential function y = ex

the form

1 Formal denition

f (x) = b .
Main article: Characterizations of the exponential funcThe input variable x occurs as an exponent hence the
name. A function of the form f(x) = b
is also considThe exponential function ex can be characterized in a vaered an exponential function, and a function of the form
riety of equivalent ways. In particular it may be dened
f(x) = abx can be re-written as f(x) = bx c by the use of
by the following power series:[4]
logarithms and so is an exponential function.
In contexts where the base b is not specied, especially

in more theoretical contexts, the term exponential func

tion is almost always understood to mean the natural exn!
ponential function
Using an alternate denition for the exponential function
leads to the same result when expanded as a Taylor series.

x 7 e ,

Less commonly, ex is dened as the solution y to the equation

also written as
x 7 exp(x)

where e is Eulers number, a transcendental number ap- x =
1 t
proximately 2.718281828. The reason this number e is
considered the natural base of exponential functions is It is also the following limit:[5]
that this function is its own derivative.[1][2] Every exponential function is directly proportional to its own deriva(
tive, but only when the base is e does the constant of prox )n
ex = lim 1 +
portionality equal 1.


the calculus of the exponential function.[6]
If a principal amount of 1 earns interest at an annual rate
of x compounded monthly, then the interest earned each
month is x/12 times the current value, so each month the
total value is multiplied by (1 + x/12), and the value at
the end of the year is (1 + x/12)12 . If instead interest is
compounded daily, this becomes (1 + x/365)365 . Letting
the number of time intervals per year grow without bound
leads to the limit denition of the exponential function,

exp(x) = lim


x )n

rst given by Euler.[5] This is one of a number of

characterizations of the exponential function; others involve series or dierential equations.
From any of these denitions it can be shown that the
exponential function obeys the basic exponentiation identity,

The exponential function (in blue), and the sum of the rst n +
1 terms of the power series on the left (in red).


exp(x + y) = exp(x) exp(y)

which is why it can be written as ex .
The derivative (rate of change) of the exponential function is the exponential function itself. More generally, a
function with a rate of change proportional to the function itself (rather than equal to it) is expressible in terms
of the exponential function. This function property leads
to exponential growth and exponential decay.
The exponential function extends to an entire function on
the complex plane. Eulers formula relates its values at
purely imaginary arguments to trigonometric functions.
The exponential function also has analogues for which the
argument is a matrix, or even an element of a Banach
algebra or a Lie algebra.

The red curve is the exponential function. The black horizontal

lines show where it crosses the green vertical lines.

3 Derivatives



The exponential function arises whenever a quantity

grows or decays at a rate proportional to its current value. The importance of the exponential function in mathematOne such situation is continuously compounded interest, ics and the sciences stems mainly from properties of its
and in fact it was this that led Jacob Bernoulli in 1683[6] derivative. In particular,
to the number

d x
e = ex

now known as e. Later, in 1697, Johann Bernoulli studied Proof:

The rate of increase of the function at x is equal to
the value of the function at x.
The function solves the dierential equation y = y.
exp is a xed point of derivative as a functional.
If a variables growth or decay rate is proportional to
its sizeas is the case in unlimited population growth
(see Malthusian catastrophe), continuously compounded
interest, or radioactive decaythen the variable can be
written as a constant times an exponential function of
time. Explicitly for any real constant k, a function f:
RR satises f = kf if and only if f(x) = cekx for some
constant c.
Furthermore, for any dierentiable function f(x), we nd,
by the chain rule:

d f (x)
= f (x)ef (x)

4 Continued fractions for ex


The derivative of the exponential function is equal to the value of

the function. From any point P on the curve (blue), let a tangent
line (red), and a vertical line (green) with height h be drawn,
forming a right triangle with a base b on the x-axis. Since the
slope of the red tangent line (the derivative) at P is equal to the
ratio of the triangles height to the triangles base (rise over run),
and the derivative is equal to the value of the function, h must be
equal to the ratio of h to b. Therefore, the base b must always be

ex = 1 + x +
d x
e =
2x 3x2
= ex

A continued fraction for ex can be obtained via an identity

of Euler:

ex = 1 +



x + 4 ..

The following generalized continued fraction for ez converges more quickly:[7]


ez = 1 +




10 +

14 + . .

or, by applying the substitution z = x/y:

That is, ex is its own derivative and hence is a simple ex2x

ample of a Pfaan function. Functions of the form cex e = 1 +
2y x +
for constant c are the only functions with that property
(by the PicardLindelf theorem). Other ways of saying
6y +
the same thing include:
10y +
The slope of the graph at any point is the height of
the function at that point.
with a special case for z = 2:

14y + . .

e2 = 1+

= 7+


ea+bi = ea (cos b + i sin b) = ea cis(b)


where a and b are real values and on the right the real
functions must be used if used as a denition[8] (see also
1Eulers formula). This formula connects the exponen10 +
. function with the trigonometric functions and to the
14 + . .
11 + . .
hyperbolic functions.
This formula also converges, though more slowly, for z >
When considered as a function dened on the complex
2. For example:
plane, the exponential function retains the properties



e3 = 1+


10 +

14 + . .


= 13+


1 +



ez+w = ez ew

9 e0 = 1
9 z
e =
14 +
18 + d ez = ez
22 + z. .n
(e ) = enz , n Z

Complex plane

for all z and w.

The exponential function is an entire function as it is
holomorphic over the whole complex plane. It takes on
every complex number excepting 0 as value; that is, 0 is
a lacunary value of the exponential function. This is an
example of Picards little theorem that any non-constant
entire function takes on every complex number as value
with at most one value excepted.
Extending the natural logarithm to complex arguments
yields the complex logarithm log z, which is a multivalued
We can then dene a more general exponentiation:
z w = ew log z

Exponential function on the complex plane. The transition from

dark to light colors shows that the magnitude of the exponential
function is increasing to the right. The periodic horizontal bands
indicate that the exponential function is periodic in the imaginary
part of its argument.

for all complex numbers z and w. This is also a multivalued function, even when z is real. This distinction is
problematic, as the multivalued functions log z and zw are
easily confused with their single-valued equivalents when
substituting a real number for z. The rule about multiplying exponents for the case of positive real numbers must
be modied in a multivalued context:
(ez )w
ezw , but rather (ez )w
= e(z + 2in)w multivalued over integers n

As in the real case, the exponential function can be dened on the complex plane in several equivalent forms.
One such denition parallels the power series denition See failure of power and logarithm identities for more
for real numbers, where the real variable is replaced by a about problems with combining powers.
complex one:
The exponential function maps any line in the complex
plane to a logarithmic spiral in the complex plane with

the center at the origin. Two special cases might be noted:

ez =
the original line is parallel to the real axis, the ren!
sulting spiral never closes in on itself; when the original
The exponential function is periodic with imaginary pe- line is parallel to the imaginary axis, the resulting spiral
riod 2i and can be written as
is a circle of some radius.

Plots of the exponential function on the complex exponential function for square matrices is a special case
of the Lie algebra exponential map.
z = Re(ex + iy )
z = Im(ex + iy )
z = |ex + iy |


The identity exp(x + y) = exp(x)exp(y) can fail for Lie algebra elements x and y that do not commute; the Baker
CampbellHausdor formula supplies the necessary correction terms.

Computation of ab where both a and b 8

are complex

Double exponential function

Main article: double exponential function

Main article: Exponentiation
The term double exponential function can have two
Complex exponentiation ab can be dened by converting meanings:
a to polar coordinates and using the identity (eln(a) )b
= ab :
a function with two exponential terms, each with a
dierent exponent such as in e3x e4x 2
)b (
a function f(x) = aa ; this grows even faster than an
ab = rei = eln(r)+i = e(ln(r)+i)b
exponential function; for example, if a = 10, then
f(1) = 1.26, f(0) = 10, f(1) = 1010 , f(2) = 10100
However, when b is not an integer, this function is
= 1 googol, , f(100) = 1 googolplex.
multivalued, because is not unique (see failure of power
and logarithm identities).

Matrices and Banach algebras

The power series denition of the exponential function

makes sense for square matrices (for which the function
is called the matrix exponential) and more generally in
any Banach algebra B. In this setting, e0 = 1, and ex is
invertible with inverse ex for any x in B. If xy = yx, then
ex + y = ex ey , but this identity can fail for noncommuting x
and y.

Factorials grow faster than exponential functions, but

slower than double-exponential functions. Fermat numm
bers, generated by F(m) = 22 + 1 and double Mersenne
numbers generated by MM(p) = 22 1 1 are examples
of double exponential functions.

9 Similar properties of
function ez

and the

The function ez is not in C(z) (i.e., is not the quotient of

Some alternative denitions lead to the same function. two polynomials with complex coecients).
For instance, ex can be dened as
For n distinct complex numbers {a1 , , an}, the set
{ea1 z , , eanz } is linearly independent over C(z).
x )n
The function ez is transcendental over C(z).
lim 1 +
Or ex can be dened as f(1), where f: RB is the solution to the dierential equation f (t) = xf(t) with initial
condition f(0) = 1.

Lie algebras

Given a Lie group G and its associated Lie algebra g ,

the exponential map is a map g G satisfying similar
properties. In fact, since R is the Lie algebra of the Lie
group of all positive real numbers under multiplication,
the ordinary exponential function for real arguments is a
special case of the Lie algebra situation. Similarly, since
the Lie group GL(n,R) of invertible n n matrices has as
Lie algebra M(n,R), the space of all n n matrices, the

10 exp and expm1

Some calculators provide a dedicated exp(x) function designed to provide a higher precision than achievable by
using ex directly.[9][10]
Based on a proposal by William Kahan and rst implemented in the Hewlett-Packard HP-41C calculator in
1979, some scientic calculators, computer algebra systems and programming languages (for example C99[11] )
support a special exponential minus 1 function alternatively named E^X-1, expm1(x),[11] expm(x),[9][10] or
exp1m(x) to provide more accurate results for values of x
near zero compared to using exp(x)1 directly.[9][10][11]
This function is implemented using a dierent internal



algorithm to avoid an intermediate result near 1, thereby

allowing both the argument and the result to be near
zero.[9][10] Similar inverse functions named lnp1(x),[9][10]
ln1p(x) or log1p(x)[11] exist as well.[nb 1]

[3] Converse; Durrell (1911). Plane and spherical trigonometry. C. E. Merrill Co. p. 12. Inverse Use of a Table of
Logarithms; that is, given a logarithm, to nd the number
corresponding to it, (called its antilogarithm)


[4] Rudin, Walter (1987). Real and complex analysis (3rd

ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-07054234-1.

See also

Approximating natural exponents (log base e)

Carlitz exponential, a characteristic p analogue
Characterizations of the exponential function
e (mathematical constant)
Exponential decay
Exponential eld
Exponential growth

[5] Eli Maor, e: the Story of a Number, p.156.

[6] John J O'Connor; Edmund F Robertson. The number
e. School of Mathematics and Statistics. University of St
Andrews, Scotland. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
[7] A.2.2 The exponential function. L. Lorentzen and
H. Waadeland, Continued Fractions, Atlantis Studies in
Mathematics, page 268.
[8] Ahlfors, Lars V. (1953). Complex analysis. McGrawHill
Book Company, Inc.
[9] HP 48G Series Advanced Users Reference Manual
(AUR) (4 ed.). Hewlett-Packard. December 1994 [1993].
HP 00048-90136, 0-88698-01574-2. Retrieved 201509-06.

Half-exponential function a compositional square

[10] HP 50g / 49g+ / 48gII graphing calculator advanced users
root of an exponential function
List of exponential topics
List of integrals of exponential functions
p-adic exponential function
Pad table for exponential function Pad approximation if exponential function by a fraction of polynomial functions



[1] For a similar approach to reduce round-o errors of calculations for certain input values see trigonometric functions
like versine, vercosine, coversine, covercosine, haversine,
havercosine, hacoversine, hacovercosine, exsecant and



[1] Goldstein, Lay; Schneider, Asmar (2006). Brief calculus

and its applications (11th ed.). PrenticeHall. ISBN 013-191965-2.
[2] Courant; Robbins (1996). Stewart, ed. What is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods
(2nd revised ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 448. ISBN
0-13-191965-2. This natural exponential function is identical with its derivative. This is really the source of all the
properties of the exponential function, and the basic reason for its importance in applications

reference manual (AUR) (2 ed.). Hewlett-Packard. 200907-14 [2005]. HP F2228-90010. Retrieved 2015-1010.Searchable PDF

[11] Beebe, Nelson H. F. (2002-07-09). Computation of

expm1 = exp(x)1 (PDF). 1.00. Salt Lake City, Utah,
USA: Department of Mathematics, Center for Scientic
Computing, University of Utah. Retrieved 2015-11-02.

14 External links
Hazewinkel, Michiel, ed. (2001), Exponential
function, Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer,
ISBN 978-1-55608-010-4
Complex exponential function at PlanetMath.org.




Derivative of exponential function interactive graph

Weisstein, Eric W.,

Exponential Function,

Taylor Series Expansions of Exponential Functions

at efunda.com
Complex exponential interactive graphic
Derivative of exp(xn ) by limit denition
General exponential limit


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