1. Introduction
Let R be a bounded convex polygonal domain, f L2 (), 1 , 2
2
1 < 2 on ,
C 2 () C(), and 1 < 0 < 2 on . In this paper we consider
the following displacement obstacle problem for a clamped Kirchho plate:
Find u K such that
(1.1) u = argmin G(v),
vK
where
(1.2) K = {v H02 () : 1 v 2 on },
1
(1.3) G(v) = a(v, v) (f, v),
2
(1.4) a(w, v) = D2 w : D2 v dx and (f, v) = f v dx.
2
Here D2 w : D2 v = i,j=1 wxi xj vxi xj is the Frobenius inner product between the
Hessian matrices of w and v.
Since a(, ) is symmetric, bounded and coercive on H02 () and K is a nonempty
closed convex subset of H02 (), by the standard theory (cf. [41, 38, 45, 32]) the
obstacle problem (1.1) has a unique solution that is also uniquely determined by
the variational inequality
(1.5) a(u, v u) (f, v u) v K.
Received by the editor November 13, 2010 and, in revised form, November 14, 2010 and
May 4, 2011.
2010 Mathematics Subject Classication. Primary 65K15, 65N30.
Key words and phrases. Displacement obstacle, clamped Kirchho plate, fourth order, varia
tional inequality, nite element, discontinuous Galerkin.
This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DMS
1016332 and by the Institute for Mathematics and its applications with funds provided by the
National Science Foundation.
2012
c American Mathematical Society
Reverts to public domain 28 years from publication
1247
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1248 SUSANNE C. BRENNER, LIYENG SUNG, AND YI ZHANG
Remark 1.1. One can also use an equivalent formulation of (1.1) where the bilinear
form a(, ) is given by a(w, v) = (w)(v) dx. However, the choice of a(, ) in
(1.4) is more appropriate for nonconforming nite element methods because the
corresponding norms provide more local information.
Finite element methods for second order displacement obstacle problems have
been investigated in [29, 20, 24, 34, 49, 36, 51]. An important ingredient in their a
priori error analysis is the H 2 (and higher) regularity of the solution of the obstacle
problem which holds if the domain and the data are suciently smooth. The main
dierence/diculty in the a priori error analysis of nite element methods for the
fourth order obstacle problem (1.1) is the lack of H 4 regularity for the solution u.
It is known (cf. [30, 31, 21, 46, 32]) that u Hloc
3
() C 2 () under the assump
tions on i . Since i C() and 1 < 0 < 2 on , we have 1 < u < 2 in a
neighborhood N of . Then (1.5) implies 2 u = f in N and hence u H 3 (N )
by the convexity of (cf. [8, 35, 26, 39]). It follows that u H 3 (). However,
4
in general u does not belong to Hloc () even when f , i and are smooth (cf.
[21]). As far as we know, a thorough analysis of nite element methods for (1.1) is
still missing from the literature because of the lack of H 4 regularity.
Remark 1.2. The C 2 regularity result in [31, 21] is obtained for the oneobstacle
problem and f = 0. But it can be extended in a standard fashion to the two
obstacle problem (1.1) under our assumptions on 1 , 2 and f (cf. Appendix A).
Note also that u does not belong to C 2 () in general if we only assume 1 2 in
(cf. [22]).
Remark 1.3. Mixed nite element methods for fourth order obstacle problems were
discussed in [34] without convergence rates. Nonconforming nite element methods
were studied in [50], where an O(h) error estimate was obtained for convex do
mains. However, in that paper 2 u is erroneously treated as a function in L2 ().
Discontinuous Galerkin methods were also investigated in [4] under a mistaken H 4
regularity of u.
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FEM FOR THE OBSTACLE PROBLEM OF CLAMPED PLATES 1249
Remark 2.1. The energy space H 3 (, Th ) is needed for C 0 interior penalty methods
(cf.
Example 2.4). We can use the larger space H 2 (, Th ) = {v L2 () : vT =
v T H (T ) T Th } for the classical nonconforming nite element methods
2
(2.1) v, w H02 () H 3 (, Th ).
ah (w, v) = a(w, v)
We assume there exists a norm h on Vh + H02 () H 3 (, Th ) such that
(2.2) ah (v, w) C1 vh wh v, w Vh + H02 () H 3 (, Th ) ,
(2.3) ah (v, v) C2 v2h v Vh .
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1250 SUSANNE C. BRENNER, LIYENG SUNG, AND YI ZHANG
Example 2.3 (Classical Nonconforming Finite Elements [2, 7, 43, 27, 48]). Let
Vh L2 () be the Morley nite element. We take
ah (w, v) = D2 w : D2 v dx,
T Th T
h = ah (, ), h to be the interpolation operator determined by the function
values at the vertices and the integrals of the normal derivatives on the edges, and
Eh to be an enriching operator dened by averaging. Details about the construction
of Eh can be found in [13, 14], where the properties (2.6), (2.7) and (2.9) are
established. The derivation of estimate (2.8) is given in Appendix B. Similar
constructions (cf. [12]) can also be carried out for the Zienkiewicz element and the
de Veubeke element, and in the case where can be triangulated by rectangles,
also for the Adini element and the incomplete biquadratic element.
Example 2.4 (C 0 Interior Penalty Methods [28, 17]). These are discontinuous
Galerkin methods. We take Vh H01 () to be a Pk Lagrange nite element space
(k 2) and
ah (w, v) = 2 2
D w : D v dx + {{ 2 w/n2 }}[[v/n]] ds
T Th T eEh e
+ {{ 2 v/n2 }}[[w/n]] ds + e1 [[w/n]][[v/n]] ds,
eEh e eEh e
where Eh is the set of the edges in Th , {{ 2 v/n2 }} (resp. [[v/n]]) is the average
(resp. jump) of the second (resp. rst) order normal derivative of v across an edge,
e is the length of the edge e and > 0 is a penalty parameter. The norm h is
dened by
v2h = v2H 2 (T ) + e{{ 2 v/n2 }}2L2 (e) + e1 [[v/n]]2L2 (e) .
T Th eEh eEh
where
(2.11) Kh = {v Vh : 1 (p) v(p) 2 (p) p Vh },
1
and Gh (v) = ah (v, v) (f, v).
2
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FEM FOR THE OBSTACLE PROBLEM OF CLAMPED PLATES 1251
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1252 SUSANNE C. BRENNER, LIYENG SUNG, AND YI ZHANG
Note that K is a subset of K h and the problems (1.1) and (3.2) involve the
same functional G. We can therefore consider u as an internal approximation of u
h
and it is known (cf. [6] and Remark 3.5) that the distance between uh and u can
be bounded by the square root of the distance between u h and K. Below we will
estimate the distance between uh and K through several lemmas.
Lemma 3.1. There exists a positive constant C independent of h such that
uh H 2 () C.
h , we deduce from (3.2) that
Proof. Since K K
(3.4) uh ) G(u)
G(
and hence, by the CauchySchwarz inequality, a PoincareFriedrichs inequality [44]
and the arithmeticgeometric mean inequality,
1

uh 2H 2 () G(u) + fuh dx
2
1
G(u) + f L2 ()
uh L2 () G(u) + Cf 2L2 () + 
uh 2H 2 () .
4
Lemma 3.2. The solution u
h of (3.2) converges uniformly on to the solution u
of (1.1) as h 0.
Proof. It suces to show that given any sequence hn 0 there exists a subsequence
hnk such that uhnk converges uniformly on to u as k .
By Lemma 3.1 and the weak sequential compactness of bounded subsets of a
Hilbert space [40], there exists a subsequence hnk such that
(3.5) hnk converges weakly to some u H02 () as k .
u
Since H 2 () is compactly embedded in C() by the RellichKondrachov Theorem
hnk implies that
[1], the weak convergence of u
(3.6) hnk converges uniformly on to u as k .
u
In view of (3.1) and the fact that the set jk Vhnj is dense in for any k, we
obtain by (3.6) the relation 1 u 2 on , i.e., u K.
Since the functional G is convex and continuous, it is also weakly lower semi
continuous (cf. [19]). Therefore we have, by (3.4) and (3.5),
G(u ) lim inf G(
uhnk ) G(u).
k
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FEM FOR THE OBSTACLE PROBLEM OF CLAMPED PLATES 1253
We can choose i > 0 (i = 1, 2) small enough so that the compact sets I1,21 , I2,22
and remain mutually disjoint.
Lemma 3.3. There exist positive numbers h0 , 1 and 2 such that
(3.9) h (x) 1 (x) 1
u and dist (x, I1 ) 1 ,
if x
(3.10) 2 (x) u
h (x) 2 and dist (x, I2 ) 2 ,
if x
provided h h0 .
Proof. Since u 1 (resp. 2 u) is strictly positive on the compact set {x
: dist (x, I1 ) 1 } (resp. {x
: dist (x, I2 ) 2 }), this is an immediate
consequence of Lemma 3.2.
Let Ih be the nodal interpolation operator for the conforming P1 nite element
space associated with Th . We can rewrite the displacement constraints on u
h as
(3.11) Ih 1 Ih u
h Ih 2 on .
Let the number h,i be dened by
(3.12) h,i = (
uh Ih u
h ) + (Ih i i )L (Ii,i ) for i = 1, 2.
Since i C () and the compact set Ii,i is disjoint from , Taylors Theorem
2
implies that
(3.13) i Ih i L (Ii,i ) Ch2 for i = 1, 2.
Moreover, from the standard interpolation error estimate (cf. [24, 16])
(3.14) Ih L () ChH 2 () H 2 ()
and Lemma 3.1, we have
uh Ih u
h L () Ch
uh H 2 () Ch,
and hence
(3.15) h,i Ch for i = 1, 2.
Lemma 3.4. There exists a positive constant C independent of h such that
(3.16) h 2H 2 () C(h,1 + h,2 )
u u
provided h is suciently small.
Proof. Let h0 , 1 and 2 be as in Lemma 3.3.
Without loss of generality, we may assume h h0 . We have, by (3.11) and
(3.12),
(3.17) h (x) 1 (x)
u
=uh (x) Ih u
h (x) + Ih u
h (x) Ih 1 (x) + Ih 1 (x) 1 (x)
h,1 x I1,1 ,
(3.18) 2 (x) u
h (x)
= 2 (x) Ih 2 (x) + Ih 2 (x) Ih u
h (x) + Ih u
h (x) u
h (x)
h,2 x I2,2 .
In view of (3.15) we may also assume that, for h h0 ,
(3.19) max h,i < min i .
i=1,2 i=1,2
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1254 SUSANNE C. BRENNER, LIYENG SUNG, AND YI ZHANG
Let i (i = 1, 2) be a function in C ()
such that
(3.20) 0 i 1
on ,
(3.21) i = 1 on Ii,i ,
(3.22) i = 0 \ Ii,2 .
on i
We claim that
(3.23) u h + h,1 1 h,2 2 K.
h = u
Since the compact sets I1,21 , I2,22 and are mutually disjoint, it is clear from
h H02 (). It only remains to show that
(3.22) that u
(3.24) 1 (x) u
h (x) 2 (x) x ,
which
we will establish
by considering the following three possibilities: (i) x
\ I1,21 I2,22 , (ii) x I1,21 and (iii) x I2,22 .
In view of (3.9) and (3.10), it is trivial that (3.24) holds for x \ I1,21 I2,22 .
For the case where x I1,21 , we note that (3.10), (3.19), (3.20) and (3.22) imply
u h (x) + h,1 1 (x) 2 (x) 2 + h,1 < 2 (x).
h (x) = u
Furthermore, if x I1,21 \ I1,1 , then
u h (x) + h,1 1 (x) 1 (x) + 1 > 1 (x)
h (x) = u
by (3.9) and (3.20). Finally, if x I1,1 , then
u h (x) + h,1 1 (x)
h (x) = u
by (3.17) and (3.21). Therefore (3.24) holds for x I1,21 .
The proof that (3.24) holds for x I2,22 is completely analogous.
From (1.3), (1.4), and Lemma 3.1, we have
1
uh ) =
G( uh + h,1 1 h,2 2 , u
a( h + h,1 1 h,2 2 )
2
(f, u h + h,1 1 h,2 2 )
1
(3.25) = a( h ) (f, u
uh , u uh , h,1 1 h,2 2 )
h ) + a(
2
1
+ a(h,1 1 h,2 2 , h,1 1 h,2 2 ) (f, h,1 1 h,2 2 )
2
G(uh ) + C h,1 + h,2 .
From (1.1), (1.3), (1.4), (3.3), (3.23) and (3.25) we then obtain
1 1 1
u u
h 2H 2 () = a(u, u) a( h ) a(
uh , u uh , u uh )
2 2 2
1 1
a(u, u) a( h ) (f, u u
uh , u h )
2 2
= G(u) G(
uh ) G( uh ) G(uh ) C h,1 + h,2 .
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FEM FOR THE OBSTACLE PROBLEM OF CLAMPED PLATES 1255
We now take a closer look at the numbers h,1 and h,2 . Since u C 2 () and
the compact set Ii,i is disjoint from , we have, by Taylors Theorem,
(3.26) u Ih uL (Ii,i ) Ch2 for i = 1, 2.
Combining (3.14) and (3.26) we nd
uh Ih u
h L (Ii,i ) (u u
h ) Ih (u uh )L () + u Ih uL (Ii,i )
C hu uh H 2 () + h2 ,
which together with (3.12) and (3.13) implies
(3.27) h,i C hu uh H 2 () + h2 for i = 1, 2.
It now follows from (3.16), (3.27) and the arithmeticgeometric mean inequality
that
1
h 2H 2 () Ch2 + u u
u u h 2H 2 () ,
2
and hence we have
(3.28) u u
h H 2 () Ch.
Finally, we note that (3.27) and (3.28) imply
(3.29) h,i Ch2 for i = 1, 2,
which improves the estimate (3.15).
4. Convergence analysis
With Lemma 3.4, the estimate (3.29), and the two variational inequalities (1.5)
and (3.3) at our disposal, we can now complete the convergence analysis of the
nite element methods.
In our analysis we will also need the estimate
(4.1) a(, v) CH 3 () vH 1 () H 3 (), v H02 (),
which follows immediately from (1.4) and integration by parts.
Lemma 4.1. There exists a positive constant C independent of h such that
(4.2) ah (u, h u uh ) (f, h u uh )
1 1
C h + h,1 2 2
+ h,2 h u uh h + h2 + h,1 + h,2 ,
Moreover, we have
(4.5) a(u, Eh h u Eh uh ) = a(
uh , Eh h u Eh uh ) + a(u u
h , Eh h u Eh uh ),
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1256 SUSANNE C. BRENNER, LIYENG SUNG, AND YI ZHANG
Combining (4.3)(4.11), we nd
(4.12) ah (u, h u uh ) f, Eh (h u uh )
1 1
C (h + h,1
2
+ h,2
2
)uh h uh + (h2 + h,1 + h,2 ) .
The estimate (4.2) follows from (2.7) and (4.12).
Theorem 4.2. There exists a positive constant C independent of h such that
(4.13) u uh h Ch.
Proof. It follows from (2.5), (2.13), Lemma 4.1, and the arithmeticgeometric mean
inequality that
1 1
u uh 2h C u h u2h + h + h,1 2
+ h,2
2
h u uh h + h2 + h,1 + h,2
1 1
C h + h,1
2
+ h,2
2
h u uh + u uh h + h2 + h,1 + h,2
1
C h2 + h,1 + h,2 + u uh 2h
2
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FEM FOR THE OBSTACLE PROBLEM OF CLAMPED PLATES 1257
and hence
u uh 2h C h2 + h,1 + h,2 ,
which together with (3.29) implies the estimate (4.13).
5. Concluding remarks
The results in this paper are also valid for the oneobstacle problem. In fact, the
analysis of the oneobstacle problem is slightly simpler since we only have to deal
with one coincidence set.
For simplicity we have assumed to be convex. But the results can be extended
to a nonconvex polygonal domain , in which case u H 2+ () for some ( 12 , 1)
(cf. [8, 35, 26, 39]), and the error estimate (4.13) becomes u uh h Ch .
It is also possible to extend the results in this paper to obstacle problems with
nonhomogeneous boundary conditions. Let g H 4 () such that 1 < g < 2 on
, and
K = {v H 2 () : v g H02 () and 1 v 2 in }.
Finite element methods for (1.1)(1.3) can be developed for this closed convex set
K. Since there are many dierent treatments for the nonhomogeneous boundary
conditions depending on the choice of the nite element space and the variational
form, we prefer to discuss them separately in future work together with numeri
cal solutions of the discrete obstacle problems. Numerical results in [18] for the
quadratic C 0 interior penalty method have conrmed the error estimate (4.13) for
obstacle problems with homogeneous or nonhomogeneous boundary conditions.
Finally, we note that the results in [30, 31, 21] also hold for simply supported
plates and hence the methodology of this paper can be applied to the obstacle
problem for simply supported plates.
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1258 SUSANNE C. BRENNER, LIYENG SUNG, AND YI ZHANG
i.e., z = z0, ,(f 2 g) in the notation of (A.1). Therefore Lemma A.1 implies that
and hence zg,,f = z + g C 2 (D).
z C 2 (D)
We are now ready to tackle the twoobstacle problem dened by (1.1)(1.3).
Since (1.5) implies 2 u = f on \ (I1 I2 ), from interior elliptic regularity (cf.
[3, 42, 37]) we know that u Hloc4
\ (I1 I2 ) and hence u is C 2 outside the
coincidence sets I1 and I2 .
Let D be a smooth domain such that I1 D and D is disjoint from
and I2 . Since u belongs to the Sobolev space H (N ) in an open neighborhood N
4
where
K = {v H 2 (D) : v g H02 (D) and 1 v 2 on D}.
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FEM FOR THE OBSTACLE PROBLEM OF CLAMPED PLATES 1259
Indeed, if there exists a function v K such that GD (v ) < GD (uD ), then the
function u dened by
v (x) if x D
u (x) =
u(x) if x \ D
belongs to K and G(u ) < G(u), which is impossible because of (1.1).
Next we claim that uD also satises
(A.5) uD = argmin GD (v),
vKg,1
where
Kg,1 = {v H 2 (D) : v g H02 (D) and v 1 on D}.
We will establish (A.5) by showing that uD satises the equivalent variational in
equality
(A.6) aD (uD , v uD ) (f, v uD ) v Kg,1 .
Let v Kg,1 be arbitrary. Since uD is strictly less than 2 on the compact set
the function wt = (1 t)uD + tv belongs to K for any suciently small non
D,
negative number t and GD (uD ) GD (wt ) for such t because of (A.4). It follows
that (d/dt)GD (wt ) is nonnegative at t = 0, which is equivalent to (A.6).
In view of (A.5) and Lemma A.2, we have uD = zg,1 ,f C 2 (D). Similarly, we
can prove that u is C 2 in a neighborhood of the coincidence set I2 . We conclude
that u C 2 ().
A function v belongs to the Morley nite element space Vh if and only if (i)
v T P2 (T ) for all T Th , (ii) v is continuous at the vertices of Th and vanishes
at the vertices along , and (iii) the normal derivative of v is continuous at the
midpoints of the edges in Th and vanishes at the midpoints of the edges along .
Note that v (and hence (v Eh v)) is continuous at the midpoints of the edges
in Eh and vanishes at the midpoints of the edges along .
Let H 3 () H02 (), v Vh and vT be the restriction of v to a triangle
T Th . Using integration by parts and the midpoint rule, we nd
ah (, v Eh v) = D2 : D2 (v Eh v) dx
T Th T
= () (v Eh v) dx + D2 : (vT Eh v) nT ds
T Th T T Th T
= () (v Eh v) dx
T Th T
+ D2 (D2 )e : [[(v Eh v) n]]e ds,
eEh e
where nT is the unit outward normal along T , (D2 )e is the mean of D2 over the
edge e and [[(v Eh v) n]]e is the sum of (vT Eh v) nT over the triangles
that share e as a common edge.
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1260 SUSANNE C. BRENNER, LIYENG SUNG, AND YI ZHANG
It follows that
1/2
ah (, v Eh v) H 1 () v Eh v2H 1 (T )
T Th
1/2
1/2
+ e1 D2 (D2 )e 2L2 (e) e[[(v Eh v) n]]2L2 (e)
eEh eEh
1/2
CH 3 () v Eh v2H 1 (T ) ChH 3 () vh ,
T Th
where we have used the CauchySchwarz inequality, the trace theorem (with scal
ing), the BrambleHilbert lemma [10] and (2.7).
that follows from (2.2), (2.3) and (C.2), and for any w Vh , we have
(C.5) ah (z, w) (f, w) = ah (z, w Eh w) (f, w Eh w)
C hzH 3 () + h2 f L2 () wh
by (2.1), (2.7), (2.8) and (C.1).
Combining (2.5) and (C.3)(C.5), we nd
z zh h Chf L2 () .
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