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The Finite Element Method And Applications In E...

The finite element method (FEM) is a popular method for numerically solving differential equations arising in engineering and mathematical modeling. Typical problem areas of interest include the traditional fields of structural analysis, heat transfer, fluid flow, mass transport, and electromagnetic potential.

The Finite Element Method and Applications in E...

The FEM is a general numerical method for solving partial differential equations in two or three space variables (i.e., some boundary value problems). To solve a problem, the FEM subdivides a large system into smaller, simpler parts that are called finite elements. This is achieved by a particular space discretization in the space dimensions, which is implemented by the construction of a mesh of the object: the numerical domain for the solution, which has a finite number of points. The finite element method formulation of a boundary value problem finally results in a system of algebraic equations. The method approximates the unknown function over the domain.[1]The simple equations that model these finite elements are then assembled into a larger system of equations that models the entire problem. The FEM then approximates a solution by minimizing an associated error function via the calculus of variations.

In the first step above, the element equations are simple equations that locally approximate the original complex equations to be studied, where the original equations are often partial differential equations (PDE). To explain the approximation in this process, the finite element method is commonly introduced as a special case of Galerkin method. The process, in mathematical language, is to construct an integral of the inner product of the residual and the weight functions and set the integral to zero. In simple terms, it is a procedure that minimizes the error of approximation by fitting trial functions into the PDE. The residual is the error caused by the trial functions, and the weight functions are polynomial approximation functions that project the residual. The process eliminates all the spatial derivatives from the PDE, thus approximating the PDE locally with

These equation sets are the element equations. They are linear if the underlying PDE is linear, and vice versa. Algebraic equation sets that arise in the steady-state problems are solved using numerical linear algebra methods, while ordinary differential equation sets that arise in the transient problems are solved by numerical integration using standard techniques such as Euler's method or the Runge-Kutta method.

While it is difficult to quote a date of the invention of the finite element method, the method originated from the need to solve complex elasticity and structural analysis problems in civil and aeronautical engineering.[4] Its development can be traced back to the work by A. Hrennikoff[5] and R. Courant[6] in the early 1940s. Another pioneer was Ioannis Argyris. In the USSR, the introduction of the practical application of the method is usually connected with name of Leonard Oganesyan.[7] It was also independently rediscovered in China by Feng Kang in the later 1950s and early 1960s, based on the computations of dam constructions, where it was called the finite difference method based on variation principle. Although the approaches used by these pioneers are different, they share one essential characteristic: mesh discretization of a continuous domain into a set of discrete sub-domains, usually called elements.

The finite element method obtained its real impetus in the 1960s and 1970s by the developments of J. H. Argyris with co-workers at the University of Stuttgart, R. W. Clough with co-workers at UC Berkeley, O. C. Zienkiewicz with co-workers Ernest Hinton, Bruce Irons[8] and others at Swansea University, Philippe G. Ciarlet at the University of Paris 6 and Richard Gallagher with co-workers at Cornell University. Further impetus was provided in these years by available open source finite element programs. NASA sponsored the original version of NASTRAN, and UC Berkeley made the finite element program SAP IV[9] widely available. In Norway the ship classification society Det Norske Veritas (now DNV GL) developed Sesam in 1969 for use in analysis of ships.[10] A rigorous mathematical basis to the finite element method was provided in 1973 with the publication by Strang and Fix.[11] The method has since been generalized for the numerical modeling of physical systems in a wide variety of engineering disciplines, e.g., electromagnetism, heat transfer, and fluid dynamics.[12][13]

A discretization strategy is understood to mean a clearly defined set of procedures that cover (a) the creation of finite element meshes, (b) the definition of basis function on reference elements (also called shape functions) and (c) the mapping of reference elements onto the elements of the mesh. Examples of discretization strategies are the h-version, p-version, hp-version, x-FEM, isogeometric analysis, etc. Each discretization strategy has certain advantages and disadvantages. A reasonable criterion in selecting a discretization strategy is to realize nearly optimal performance for the broadest set of mathematical models in a particular model class.

Postprocessing procedures are designed for the extraction of the data of interest from a finite element solution. In order to meet the requirements of solution verification, postprocessors need to provide for a posteriori error estimation in terms of the quantities of interest. When the errors of approximation are larger than what is considered acceptable then the discretization has to be changed either by an automated adaptive process or by the action of the analyst. There are some very efficient postprocessors that provide for the realization of superconvergence.

where V \displaystyle V is a finite-dimensional subspace of H 0 1 \displaystyle H_0^1 . There are many possible choices for V \displaystyle V (one possibility leads to the spectral method). However, for the finite element method we take V \displaystyle V to be a space of piecewise polynomial functions.

Depending on the author, the word "element" in the "finite element method" refers either to the triangles in the domain, the piecewise linear basis function, or both. So for instance, an author interested in curved domains might replace the triangles with curved primitives, and so might describe the elements as being curvilinear. On the other hand, some authors replace "piecewise linear" by "piecewise quadratic" or even "piecewise polynomial". The author might then say "higher order element" instead of "higher degree polynomial". The finite element method is not restricted to triangles (or tetrahedra in 3-d, or higher-order simplexes in multidimensional spaces), but can be defined on quadrilateral subdomains (hexahedra, prisms, or pyramids in 3-d, and so on). Higher-order shapes (curvilinear elements) can be defined with polynomial and even non-polynomial shapes (e.g. ellipse or circle).

More advanced implementations (adaptive finite element methods) utilize a method to assess the quality of the results (based on error estimation theory) and modify the mesh during the solution aiming to achieve an approximate solution within some bounds from the exact solution of the continuum problem. Mesh adaptivity may utilize various techniques, the most popular are:

Such matrices are known as sparse matrices, and there are efficient solvers for such problems (much more efficient than actually inverting the matrix.) In addition, L \displaystyle L is symmetric and positive definite, so a technique such as the conjugate gradient method is favored. For problems that are not too large, sparse LU decompositions and Cholesky decompositions still work well. For instance, MATLAB's backslash operator (which uses sparse LU, sparse Cholesky, and other factorization methods) can be sufficient for meshes with a hundred thousand vertices.

Another consideration is the relation of the finite-dimensional space V \displaystyle V to its infinite-dimensional counterpart, in the examples above H 0 1 \displaystyle H_0^1 . A conforming element method is one in which space V \displaystyle V is a subspace of the element space for the continuous problem. The example above is such a method. If this condition is not satisfied, we obtain a nonconforming element method, an example of which is the space of piecewise linear functions over the mesh which are continuous at each edge midpoint. Since these functions are in general discontinuous along the edges, this finite-dimensional space is not a subspace of the original H 0 1 \displaystyle H_0^1 .

Typically, one has an algorithm for taking a given mesh and subdividing it. If the main method for increasing precision is to subdivide the mesh, one has an h-method (h is customarily the diameter of the largest element in the mesh.) In this manner, if one shows that the error with a grid h \displaystyle h is bounded above by C h p \displaystyle Ch^p , for some C 0 \displaystyle p>0 , then one has an order p method. Under certain hypotheses (for instance, if the domain is convex), a piecewise polynomial of order d \displaystyle d method will have an error of order p = d + 1 \displaystyle p=d+1 .

If instead of making h smaller, one increases the degree of the polynomials used in the basis function, one has a p-method. If one combines these two refinement types, one obtains an hp-method (hp-FEM). In the hp-FEM, the polynomial degrees can vary from element to element. High order methods with large uniform p are called spectral finite element methods (SFEM). These are not to be confused with spectral methods.

The mixed finite element method is a type of finite element method in which extra independent variables are introduced as nodal variables during the discretization of a partial differential equation problem.

The extended finite element method (XFEM) is a numerical technique based on the generalized finite element method (GFEM) and the partition of unity method (PUM). It extends the classical finite element method by enriching the solution space for solutions to differential equations with discontinuous functions. Extended finite element methods enrich the approximation space so that it can naturally reproduce the challenging feature associated with the problem of interest: the discontinuity, singularity, boundary layer, etc. It was shown that for some problems, such an embedding of the problem's feature into the approximation space can significantly improve convergence rates and accuracy. Moreover, treating problems with discontinuities with XFEMs suppresses the need to mesh and re-mesh the discontinuity surfaces, thus alleviating the computational costs and projection errors associated with conventional finite element methods, at the cost of restricting the discontinuities to mesh edges. 041b061a72

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