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**Intro to Finite Element
**

Modeling & COMSOL

(a mini-course)

CEE-268, Winter 2006

By Michael Cardiff

2

What is a model?

Straight from the OED:

“a system or thing used as an example to

follow or imitate - a simplified description,

especially a mathematical one, of a system or

process, to assist calculations and

predictions.”

3

What is a numerical model?

A model which estimates the solution to a “hard”

problem (usually a set of PDEs) through

numerical approximations.

A finite-difference example

2

2

2

÷ =

c

c

x

y

0 ) 1 (

0 ) 0 (

=

=

y

y

x = 0

y = 0

x = 1

y = 0

?

Analytical Solution:

1. Integrate the

expression using

calculus tricks

2. Plug in BC’s to get

values for integration

constants

A finite-difference example

2 ) ( ' '

2

1 2 3 5 . 1 5 . 2

) (

2 ) ( ' ) ( '

2

÷ = ~ ~

A

+ ÷

A

÷

x

y y y

x

x y x y

x y

x

y y

x y

A

÷

~

1 2

) ( '

5 . 1 x

y y

x y

A

÷

~

2 3

) ( '

5 . 2

x

4

x

0

x

1

x

2

x

3

x A

?

Numerical Solution:

1. Approximate

derivatives using

numerical tricks

2. Write all equations into

a single matrix and

solve.

A finite-difference example

0 ) (

0 ) (

) ( 2 2

... 1

1 1

0 0

2

1 1

= =

= =

A ÷ = + ÷

=

+ +

+ ÷

n n

i i i

x y y

x y y

x y y y

n i f or

(

(

(

(

(

(

¸

(

¸

A ÷

A ÷

A ÷

A ÷

=

(

(

(

(

(

(

¸

(

¸

(

(

(

(

(

(

¸

(

¸

÷

÷

÷

÷

÷

2

2

2

2

1

2

1

) ( 2

) ( 2

...

) ( 2

) ( 2

...

2 1

1 2 1

. . .

1 2 1

1 2

x

x

x

x

y

y

y

y

n

n

7

When should we use numerical

methods?

Necessary Assumptions for the methods we

have studied so far:

•2-D problems, in plan view generally

•Horizontal-only flow (Dupuit-Forchheimer

assumption)

•Isotropic, homogeneous domain

•Steady-state conditions (no change in time)

•Darcy’s law applies in the full domain

8

When should we use numerical

methods?

• To get approximate solutions to problems that

cannot be solved analytically, for example:

o Problems with complicated geometries and/or boundaries

o Problems with difficult to solve PDEs

• To test the applicability of a simple rule under a

variety of conditions (for example, the Ghyben-

Herzberg relation)

• To verify the correctness of an analytical solution

9

Issues to Remember

• It may take a long time to get your

solution (or you may get a lack of

convergence!)

• When/if you get a solution, it is only an

approximate solution.

• The solutions may be highly dependent

on the data you give to COMSOL

(anisotropy, heterogeneity, etc)

• Your data has errors.

10

COMSOL

Based on the Finite Element (FE) Method

(+) FE can handle complex geometries and boundary

conditions with ease. FD is basically restricted to

rectangular shapes.

(+) FD only tries to minimize error at discrete points, whereas

FE tries to minimize the error over the entire element (line

segments in 1-D, triangles in 2-D)

(–) The mathematics behind FE are more involved than FD.

11

COMSOL

COMSOL

Geometry (“CAD”)

PDE Definition

Discretization

PDE Solution

Post-Processing

12

COMSOL Geometry

Two options:

• Simple UI for 1-D, 2-D,

and 3-D

– Points, lines, planes,

circles, etc.

– Object mathematics,

scaling, rotation,

reflection

– Extrusion / Revolving

in 3-D

• Import from standard

CAD software

– VRML, dxf

13

COMSOL PDE Definition

• Pre-defined

physical PDEs

(coupled

through “multi-

physics”)

OR

• General PDE

solution mode

14

COMSOL PDE Definition

•Define parameter values within

each shape (subdomain)

– Hydraulic conductivity in

aquifer

•Define boundary conditions

– Head at specified boundary

•Define known values at points

– Known extraction rate at

point-source well

•Couple physics as necessary

– Solute transport

(advection/diffusion equation)

coupled to fluid velocity

(Darcy’s Law or N-S equations)

15

COMSOL Discretization

Automatic Meshing Options:

– Element shape

(triangular, square)

– Element type (Linear,

Quadratic, Cubic)

– Mesh parameters (rate of

element growth, mesh

size sensitivity)

– Advanced: moving

meshes / automatic

refinement

16

COMSOL PDE Solving

Options:

– Transient (time

dependent) or Stationary

(steady state) solving

– Great assortment of FE

algorithms

• UMFPACK, GMRES,

Multi-grid, Conjugate

Gradient

– Can solve individual parts

of problems, store

solutions, or iterate

17

COMSOL Post-Processing

• For any given physics, many

variables will be output

– Example: Darcy’s law will

have head, velocity,

pressure as output

• Variety of standard

visualizations:

– Surface, contour,

streamline, arrow, and

animated plots

• Further analysis:

– Subdomain / boundary

integration

– Cross-sectional plots

18

COMSOL

Compared with other methods of modeling:

(+) Relatively easy to use graphical interface

(+) Uses state-of-the-art solvers and optimizers. Runs well on a

suitably-equipped (lots of RAM) desktop PC.

(–) Lots of default options / hidden parameters

(–) Interface changes based on what type of physics you are

solving for. “Multiphysics” gets even more cumbersome.

What is a model? Straight from the OED: “a system or thing used as an example to follow or imitate .a simplified description.” 2 . of a system or process. especially a mathematical one. to assist calculations and predictions.

What is a numerical model? A model which estimates the solution to a “hard” problem (usually a set of PDEs) through numerical approximations. 3 .

Plug in BC’s to get values for integration constants 2 y 2 2 x y (0) 0 y (1) 0 . Integrate the expression using calculus tricks 2.A finite-difference example ? x=0 y=0 x=1 y=0 Analytical Solution: 1.

5 ) x y3 2 y2 y1 ( x ) 2 2 . Approximate derivatives using numerical tricks 2. y' ( x1.5 ) y '( x1.5 ) y' ' ( x2 ) y '( x2.5 ) y' ( x2.A finite-difference example ? x0 x1 x2 x3 x4 x y2 y1 x y3 y2 x Numerical Solution: 1. Write all equations into a single matrix and solve.

2 1 2 1 yn 1 2(x) yn 2(x) 2 1 2 .. .... .n yi 1 2 yi yi 1 2(x) 2 y0 y ( x0 ) 0 yn 1 y ( xn 1 ) 0 y1 2(x) 2 2 1 1 2 1 y 2 2 2(x) . .A finite-difference example for i 1.. ..

in plan view generally •Horizontal-only flow (Dupuit-Forchheimer assumption) •Isotropic.When should we use numerical methods? Necessary Assumptions for the methods we have studied so far: •2-D problems. homogeneous domain •Steady-state conditions (no change in time) •Darcy’s law applies in the full domain 7 .

for example: o Problems with complicated geometries and/or boundaries o Problems with difficult to solve PDEs • To test the applicability of a simple rule under a variety of conditions (for example. the GhybenHerzberg relation) • To verify the correctness of an analytical solution 8 .When should we use numerical methods? • To get approximate solutions to problems that cannot be solved analytically.

• The solutions may be highly dependent on the data you give to COMSOL (anisotropy. heterogeneity. 9 . etc) • Your data has errors.Issues to Remember • It may take a long time to get your solution (or you may get a lack of convergence!) • When/if you get a solution. it is only an approximate solution.

triangles in 2-D) (+) (–) The mathematics behind FE are more involved than FD. FD only tries to minimize error at discrete points.COMSOL Based on the Finite Element (FE) Method (+) FE can handle complex geometries and boundary conditions with ease. whereas FE tries to minimize the error over the entire element (line segments in 1-D. FD is basically restricted to rectangular shapes. 10 .

COMSOL Geometry (“CAD”) PDE Definition COMSOL Discretization PDE Solution Post-Processing 11 .

– Object mathematics. 2-D. circles.COMSOL Geometry Two options: • Simple UI for 1-D. and 3-D – Points. etc. rotation. lines. dxf 12 . scaling. planes. reflection – Extrusion / Revolving in 3-D • Import from standard CAD software – VRML.

COMSOL PDE Definition • Pre-defined physical PDEs (coupled through “multiphysics”) OR • General PDE solution mode 13 .

COMSOL PDE Definition •Define parameter values within each shape (subdomain) – Hydraulic conductivity in aquifer •Define boundary conditions – Head at specified boundary •Define known values at points – Known extraction rate at point-source well •Couple physics as necessary – Solute transport (advection/diffusion equation) coupled to fluid velocity (Darcy’s Law or N-S equations) 14 .

COMSOL Discretization Automatic Meshing Options: – Element shape (triangular. Quadratic. square) – Element type (Linear. mesh size sensitivity) – Advanced: moving meshes / automatic refinement 15 . Cubic) – Mesh parameters (rate of element growth.

COMSOL PDE Solving Options: – Transient (time dependent) or Stationary (steady state) solving – Great assortment of FE algorithms • UMFPACK. or iterate 16 . Conjugate Gradient – Can solve individual parts of problems. Multi-grid. store solutions. GMRES.

streamline. arrow. many variables will be output – Example: Darcy’s law will have head. contour. and animated plots • Further analysis: – Subdomain / boundary integration – Cross-sectional plots 17 .COMSOL Post-Processing • For any given physics. pressure as output • Variety of standard visualizations: – Surface. velocity.

(–) Lots of default options / hidden parameters (–) Interface changes based on what type of physics you are solving for. 18 . “Multiphysics” gets even more cumbersome.COMSOL Compared with other methods of modeling: (+) Relatively easy to use graphical interface (+) Uses state-of-the-art solvers and optimizers. Runs well on a suitably-equipped (lots of RAM) desktop PC.

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