# How is the Schroedinger equation a wave equation?

Actually, *a* wave equation is any equation that admits wave-like solutions, which take the form $f(\vec{x} \pm \vec{v}t)$. The equation $\frac{\partial^2 f}{\partial t^2} = c^2\nabla^2 f$, despite being called "*the* wave equation," is not the only equation that does this.

If you plug the wave solution into the Schroedinger equation for constant potential, using $\xi = x - vt$

$$\begin{align} -i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}f(\xi) &= \biggl(-\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\nabla^2 + U\biggr) f(\xi) \\ i\hbar vf'(\xi) &= -\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}f''(\xi) + Uf(\xi) \\ \end{align}$$

This clearly depends only on $\xi$, not $x$ or $t$ individually, which shows that you can find wave-like solutions. They wind up looking like $e^{ik\xi}$.

Both are types of wave equations because the solutions behave as you expect for "waves". However, mathematically speaking they are partial differential equations (PDE) which are not of the same type (so you expect that the class of solutions, given some boundary conditions, will present different behaviour). The constraints on the eigenvalues of the linear operator are also particular to each of the types of PDE. Generally, a second order partial differential equation in two variables can be written as

$$A \partial_x^2 u + B \partial_x \partial_y u + C \partial_y^2 u + \text{lower order terms} = 0 $$

The wave equation in one dimension you quote is a simple form for a **hyperbolic PDE** satisfying $B^2 - 4AC > 0$.

The Schrödinger equation is a **parabolic PDE** in which we have $B^2 - 4AC < 0$. It can be mapped to the heat equation.

In the technical sense, the Schrödinger equation is **not** a wave equation (it is not a hyperbolic PDE). In a more heuristic sense, though, one may regard it as one because it exhibits some of the characteristics of typical wave-equations. In particular, the most important property shared with wave-equations is the **Huygens principle**. For example, this principle is behind the double slit experiment.

If you want to read about this principle and the Schrödinger equation, see Huygens' principle, the free Schrodinger particle and the quantum anti-centrifugal force and Huygens’ Principle as Universal Model of Propagation. See also this Math.OF post for more details about the HP and hyperbolic PDE's.