Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Whats the difference between Fourier transformations and Fourier Series? As I've been working with Fourier Series in my maths lectures yet a friend of mine also doing engineering has been working with Fourier Transformations. Are they the same where a transformation is just used when its applied and not used in pure mathematics?

share|cite|improve this question
Fourier series is an discrete analogue of Fourier transformation – M. Strochyk Oct 25 '12 at 21:22
@Dean Here is something that I found extremely useful for Fourier transforms. Link – drN Oct 25 '12 at 22:36
@M.Strochyk: why would one even needed the discrete analogue if the continuous one seem to cover all types of functions? Whether I deal with periodic and non periodic function I should be able to apply the continuous FT? – Medan Jun 28 at 21:33
up vote 36 down vote accepted

The Fourier series is used to represent a periodic function by a discrete sum of complex exponentials, while the Fourier transform is then used to represent a general, nonperiodic function by a continuous superposition or integral of complex exponentials. The Fourier transform can be viewed as the limit of the Fourier series of a function with the period approaches to infinity, so the limits of integration change from one period to $(-\infty,\infty)$.

In a classical approach it would not be possible to use the Fourier transform for a periodic function which cannot be in $\mathbb{L}_1(-\infty,\infty)$. The use of generalized functions, however, frees us of that restriction and makes it possible to look at the Fourier transform of a periodic function. It can be shown that the Fourier series coefficients of a periodic function are sampled values of the Fourier transform of one period of the function.

share|cite|improve this answer
+1. Thanks for pointing out the relations between FS and FT! In the last sentence, "the Fourier transform of one period of the function." Do you mean the function is truncated to be zero outside one period and still defined over $(-\infty, \infty)$, and then the FT applies to the truncated function over $(-\infty, \infty)$? – Tim Jan 1 '13 at 16:10
@Tim you are right. – chaohuang Jan 1 '13 at 17:20

Fourier transform and Fourier series are two manifestations of a similar idea, namely, to write general functions as "superpositions" (whether integrals or sums) of some special class of functions. Exponentials $x\rightarrow e^{itx}$ (or, equivalently, expressing the same thing in sines and cosines via Euler's identity $e^{iy}=\cos y+i\sin y$) have the virtue that they are eigenfunctions for differentiation, that is, differentiation just multiplies them: ${d\over dx}e^{itx}=it\cdot e^{itx}$. This makes exponentials very convenient for solving differential equations, for example.

A periodic function provably can be expressed as a "discrete" superposition of exponentials, that is, a sum. A non-periodic, but decaying, function does not admit an expression as discrete superposition of exponentials, but only a continuous superposition, namely, the integral that shows up in Fourier inversion for Fourier transforms.

In both case, there are several technical points that must be addressed, somewhat different in the two situations, but the issues are very similar in spirit.

share|cite|improve this answer
+1! Thanks! This reply confirms my recent understanding. "A periodic function provably can be expressed as a "discrete" superposition of exponentials," should "A periodic function" be "A periodic function which is $L^1$ in a single period" instead? – Tim Jan 1 '13 at 16:03
@Tim... Oh, yes, certainly, "locally $L^1$" is necessary for the relevant integrals to be literal. But, also, suitable "generalized functions" (distributions) have similar expressions, convergent in a suitable topology. – paul garrett Jan 1 '13 at 17:44

Fourier transform is basically used for transforming periodic and non periodic signals into from time domain to frequency domain. It can also transform fourier series into frequency domain as fourier series is nothing but a simplified form of time domain periodic function and nothing else .

Fourier series

  1. Periodic function ----------- converts into a *discrete** exponential or sin cos function.
  2. non Periodic function ----------- not applicable

Fourier transform

  1. Periodic function ----------- converts its Fourier series in frequency domain.
  2. non Periodic function ----------- converts it into continuous frequency domain.
share|cite|improve this answer
What's with the weird formatting? – Dan Rust Aug 16 '13 at 22:59

protected by T. Bongers May 13 '14 at 18:41

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.