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Section: Scientific Foundations

High order discretization methods

The applications in computational electromagnetics and computational geoseismics that are considered by the team lead to the numerical simulation of wave propagation in heterogeneous media or/and involve irregularly shaped objects or domains. The underlying wave propagation phenomena can be purely unsteady or they can be periodic (because the imposed source term follows a time harmonic evolution). In this context, the overall objective of the research activities undertaken by the team is to develop numerical methods putting the emphasis on several features:

  • Accuracy. The foreseen numerical methods should ideally rely on discretization techniques that best fit to the geometrical characteristics of the problems at hand. For this reason, the team focuses on methods working on unstructured, locally refined, even non-conforming, simplicial meshes. These methods should also be capable to accurately describe the underlying physical phenomena that may involve highly variable space and time scales. With reference to this characteristic, two main strategies are possible: adaptive local refinement/coarsening of the mesh (i.e h-adaptivity) and adaptive local variation of the interpolation order (i.e p-adaptivity). Ideally, these two strategies are combined leading to the so-called hp-adaptive methods.

  • Numerical efficiency. The simulation of unsteady problems most often relies on explicit time integration schemes. Such schemes are constrained by a stability criteria linking the space and time discretization parameters that can be very restrictive when the underlying mesh is highly non-uniform (especially for locally refined meshes). For realistic 3D problems, this can represent a severe limitation with regards to the overall computing time. In order to improve this situation, one possible approach consists in resorting to an implicit time scheme in regions of the computational domain where the underlying mesh is refined while an explicit time scheme is applied to the remaining part of the domain. The resulting hybrid explicit-implicit time integration strategy raises several challenging questions concerning both the mathematical analysis (stability and accuracy, especially for what concern numerical dispersion), and the computer implementation on modern high performance systems (data structures, parallel computing aspects). A second, more classical approach is to devise a local time strategy in the context of a fully explicit time integration scheme. Stability and accuracy are still important challenges in this case.

    On the other hand, when considering time harmonic wave propagation problems, numerical efficiency is mainly linked to the solution of the system of algebraic equations resulting from the discretization in space of the underlying PDE model. Various strategies exist ranging from the more robust and efficient sparse direct solvers to the more flexible and cheaper (in terms of memory resources) iterative methods. Current trends tend to show that the ideal candidate will be a judicious mix of both approaches by relying on domain decomposition principles.

  • Computational efficiency. Realistic 3D wave propagation problems lead to the processing of very large volumes of data. The latter results from two combined parameters: the size of the mesh i.e the number of mesh elements, and the number of degrees of freedom per mesh element which is itself linked to the degree of interpolation and to the number of physical variables (for systems of partial differential equations). Hence, numerical methods must be adapted to the characteristics of modern parallel computing platforms taking into account their hierarchical nature (e.g multiple processors and multiple core systems with complex cache and memory hierarchies). Besides, appropriate parallelization strategies need to be designed that combine SIMD and MIMD programming paradigms. Moreover, maximizing the effective floating point performances will require the design of numerical algorithms that can benefit from the optimized BLAS linear algebra kernels.

The discontinuous Galerkin method (DG) was introduced in 1973 by Reed and Hill to solve the neutron transport equation. From this time to the 90's a review on the DG methods would likely fit into one page. In the meantime, the finite volume approach has been widely adopted by computational fluid dynamics scientists and has now nearly supplanted classical finite difference and finite element methods in solving problems of non-linear convection. The success of the finite volume method is due to its ability to capture discontinuous solutions which may occur when solving non-linear equations or more simply, when convecting discontinuous initial data in the linear case. Let us first remark that DG methods share with finite volumes this property since a first order finite volume scheme can be viewed as a 0th order DG scheme. However a DG method may be also considered as a finite element one where the continuity constraint at an element interface is released. While it keeps almost all the advantages of the finite element method (large spectrum of applications, complex geometries, etc.), the DG method has other nice properties which explain the renewed interest it gains in various domains in scientific computing as witnessed by books or special issues of journals dedicated to this method [43] - [44] - [45] - [48] :

  • It is naturally adapted to a high order approximation of the unknown field. Moreover, one may increase the degree of the approximation in the whole mesh as easily as for spectral methods but, with a DG method, this can also be done very locally. In most cases, the approximation relies on a polynomial interpolation method but the DG method also offers the flexibility of applying local approximation strategies that best fit to the intrinsic features of the modeled physical phenomena.

  • When the discretization in space is coupled to an explicit time integration method, the DG method leads to a block diagonal mass matrix independently of the form of the local approximation (e.g the type of polynomial interpolation). This is a striking difference with classical, continuous finite element formulations. Moreover, the mass matrix is diagonal if an orthogonal basis is chosen.

  • It easily handles complex meshes. The grid may be a classical conforming finite element mesh, a non-conforming one or even a hybrid mesh made of various elements (tetrahedra, prisms, hexahedra, etc.). The DG method has been proven to work well with highly locally refined meshes. This property makes the DG method more suitable to the design of a hp-adaptive solution strategy (i.e where the characteristic mesh size h and the interpolation degree p changes locally wherever it is needed).

  • It is flexible with regards to the choice of the time stepping scheme. One may combine the DG spatial discretization with any global or local explicit time integration scheme, or even implicit, provided the resulting scheme is stable.

  • It is naturally adapted to parallel computing. As long as an explicit time integration scheme is used, the DG method is easily parallelized. Moreover, the compact nature of DG discretization schemes is in favor of high computation to communication ratio especially when the interpolation order is increased.

As with standard finite element methods, a DG method relies on a variational formulation of the continuous problem at hand. However, due to the discontinuity of the global approximation, this variational formulation has to be defined at the element level. Then, a degree of freedom in the design of a DG method stems from the approximation of the boundary integral term resulting from the application of an integration by parts to the element-wise variational form. In the spirit of finite volume methods, the approximation of this boundary integral term calls for a numerical flux function which can be based on either a centered scheme or an upwind scheme, or a blending between these two schemes.

For the numerical solution of the time domain Maxwell equations, we have first proposed a non-dissipative high order DGTD (Discontinuous Galerkin Time Domain) method working on unstructured conforming simplicial meshes [14] -[3] . This DG method combines a central numerical flux function for the approximation of the integral term at an interface between two neighboring elements with a second order leap-frog time integration scheme. Moreover, the local approximation of the electromagnetic field relies on a nodal (Lagrange type) polynomial interpolation method. Recent achievements by the team deal with the extension of these methods towards non-conforming meshes and hp-adaptivity [12] -[13] , their coupling with hybrid explicit/implicit time integration schemes in order to improve their efficiency in the context of locally refined meshes [6] . A high order DG method has also been proposed for the numerical resolution of the elastodynamic equations modeling the propagation of seismic waves [5] -[11] . For the numerical treatment of the time harmonic Maxwell equations, we have studied similar DG methods [7] -[18] and more recently, HDG (Hybridized Discontinuous Galerkin) methods [22] .