In this article, we analyze the three-component reaction-diffusion system originally developed by Schenk et al. (PRL 78:3781–3784, 1997). The system consists of bistable activator-inhibitor equations with an additional inhibitor that diffuses more rapidly than the standard inhibitor (or recovery variable). It has been used by several authors as a prototype three-component system that generates rich pulse dynamics and interactions, and this richness is the main motivation for the analysis we present. We demonstrate the existence of stationary one-pulse and two-pulse solutions, and travelling one-pulse solutions, on the real line, and we determine the parameter regimes in which they exist. Also, for one-pulse solutions, we analyze various bifurcations, including the saddle-node bifurcation in which they are created, as well as the bifurcation from a stationary to a travelling pulse, which we show can be either subcritical or supercritical. For two-pulse solutions, we show that the third component is essential, since the reduced bistable two-component system does not support them. We also analyze the saddle-node bifurcation in which two-pulse solutions are created. The analytical method used to construct all of these pulse solutions is geometric singular perturbation theory, which allows us to show that these solutions lie in the transverse intersections of invariant manifolds in the phase space of the associated six-dimensional travelling wave system. Finally, as we illustrate with numerical simulations, these solutions form the backbone of the rich pulse dynamics this system exhibits, including pulse replication, pulse annihilation, breathing pulses, and pulse scattering, among others.
Three-component reaction-diffusion systems One-pulse solutions Travelling pulse solutions Two-pulse solutions Geometric singular perturbation theory Melnikov function
The authors thank Y. Nishiura for introducing us to the three-component model and for stimulating conversations. We thank P. Zegeling for valuable assistance with the software  used in the numerical simulations. A.D., P.v.H. and T.K. gratefully acknowledge support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). T. J. Kaper gratefully acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation through grant DMS-0606343, and thanks the CWI for its hospitality.
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