The optimal control problem for a broad class of distributed parameter systems defined by vector parabolic partial differential equations is considered. The problem is solved by discretizing the spatial domain and then treating the (large) resultant set of ordinary differential equations as a set of independent subsystems. The subsystems are determined by decomposition of the total system into lower-dimensional problems and the necessary conditions for optimality of the overall system are then satisfied by an iterative procedure. With this treatment, the optimal control problem can be solved for larger systems (or finer spatial discretizations) than would otherwise be feasible. An example is given for a system described by a nonlinear parabolic partial differential equation in one space dimension.

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