where a is nonzero, which is defined by a polynomial of degree four, called a quartic polynomial.

A quartic equation, or equation of the fourth degree, is an equation that equates a quartic polynomial to zero, of the form

where a ≠ 0. The derivative of a quartic function is a cubic function.

Sometimes the term biquadratic is used instead of quartic, but, usually, biquadratic function refers to a quadratic function of a square (or, equivalently, to the function defined by a quartic polynomial without terms of odd degree), having the form

Since a quartic function is defined by a polynomial of even degree, it has the same infinite limit when the argument goes to positive or negative infinity. If a is positive, then the function increases to positive infinity at both ends; and thus the function has a global minimum. Likewise, if a is negative, it decreases to negative infinity and has a global maximum. In both cases it may or may not have another local maximum and another local minimum.

The degree four (quartic case) is the highest degree such that every polynomial equation can be solved by radicals, according to the Abel–Ruffini theorem.

**Applications**

Each coordinate of the intersection points of two conic sections is a solution of a quartic equation. The same is true for the intersection of a line and a torus. It follows that quartic equations often arise in computational geometry and all related fields such as computer graphics, computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing and optics. Here are examples of other geometric problems whose solution involves solving a quartic equation.

In computer-aided manufacturing, the torus is a shape that is commonly associated with the endmill cutter. To calculate its location relative to a triangulated surface, the position of a horizontal torus on the z-axis must be found where it is tangent to a fixed line, and this requires the solution of a general quartic equation to be calculated.

A quartic equation arises also in the process of solving the crossed ladders problem, in which the lengths of two crossed ladders, each based against one wall and leaning against another, are given along with the height at which they cross, and the distance between the walls is to be found.

In optics, Alhazen's problem is "Given a light source and a spherical mirror, find the point on the mirror where the light will be reflected to the eye of an observer." This leads to a quartic equation.

Finding the distance of closest approach of two ellipses involves solving a quartic equation.

The eigenvalues of a 4×4 matrix are the roots of a quartic polynomial which is the characteristic polynomial of the matrix.

The characteristic equation of a fourth-order linear difference equation or differential equation is a quartic equation. An example arises in the Timoshenko-Rayleigh theory of beam bending.

Intersections between spheres, cylinders, or other quadrics can be found using quartic equations.

]]>