## Abstract

The possibility of travelling reaction-diffusion waves developing in the chemical system governed by the quadratic autocatalytic or branching reaction A + B $\rightarrow$ 2B (rate k$_1$ ab) coupled with the decay or termination step B $\rightarrow$ C (rate K$_2$b) is examined. Two simple solutions are obtained first, namely the well-stirred analogue of the spatially inhomogeneous problem and the solution for small input of the reactant B. Both of these indicate that the criterion for the existence of a travelling wave is that k$_2$ < k$_1$a$_0$, where a$_0$ is the initial concentration of reactant A. The equations governing the fully developed travelling waves are then discussed and it is shown that these possess a solution only if this criterion is satisfied, i.e. only if k = k$_2$/k$_1$ a$_0$ < 1. Further properties of these waves are also established and, in particular, it is shown that the concentration of A increases monotonically from its fully reacted state at the rear of the wave to its unreacted state at the front, while the concentration of B has a single hump form. Numerical solutions of the full initial value problem are then obtained and these do confirm that travelling waves are possible only if k < 1 and suggest that, when this condition holds, these waves travel with the uniform speed $v_0 = 2\surd (1-k)$. This last result is established by a large time analysis of the full initial value problem that reveals that ahead of the reaction-diffusion front is a very weak diffusion-controlled region into which an exponentially small amount of B must diffuse before the reaction can be initiated. Finally, the behaviour of the travelling waves in the two asymptotic limits k $\rightarrow $0 and k $\rightarrow$ 1 are treated. In the first case the solution approaches that for the previously discussed k = 0 case on the length scale associated with the reaction-diffusion front, with the difference being seen on a much longer, O(k$^{-1}$), length scale. In the latter case we find that the concentration of A is 1 + O(1-k) and that of B is O((1-k)$^2$), with the thickness of the reaction-diffusion front being of O((1-k)$^\frac{1}{2}$).