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Variational Formulations Yielding High-Order Finite-Element Solutions in Smooth Domains without Curved Elements

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Document pages: 13 pages

Abstract: One of the reasons for the great success of the finite element method is its versatility to deal with different types of geometries. This is particularly true of problems posed in curved domains. Nevertheless it is well-known that, for standard variational formulations, the optimal approximation properties known to hold for polytopic domains are lost, if meshes consisting of ordinary elements are still used in the case of curved domains. That is why method’s isoparametric version for meshes consisting of curved triangles or tetrahedra has been widely employed, especially in case Dirichlet boundary conditions are prescribed all over a curved boundary. However, besides geometric inconveniences, the isoparametric technique helplessly requires the manipulation of rational functions and the use of numerical integration. In this work we consider a simple alternative that bypasses these drawbacks, without eroding qualitative approximation properties. More specifically we work with a variational formulation leading to high order finite element methods based only on polynomial algebra, since they do not require the use of curved elements. Application of the new approach to Lagrange methods of arbitrary order illustrates its potential to take the best advantage of finite-element discretizations in the solution of wide classes of problems posed in curved domains.

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