, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 379-412

On the multi-level splitting of finite element spaces

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Summary

In this paper we analyze the condition number of the stiffness matrices arising in the discretization of selfadjoint and positive definite plane elliptic boundary value problems of second order by finite element methods when using hierarchical bases of the finite element spaces instead of the usual nodal bases. We show that the condition number of such a stiffness matrix behaves like O((log κ)2) where κ is the condition number of the stiffness matrix with respect to a nodal basis. In the case of a triangulation with uniform mesh sizeh this means that the stiffness matrix with respect to a hierarchical basis of the finite element space has a condition number behaving like \(O\left( {\left( {\log \frac{1}{h}} \right)^2 } \right)\) instead of \(O\left( {\left( {\frac{1}{h}} \right)^2 } \right)\) for a nodal basis. The proofs of our theorems do not need any regularity properties of neither the continuous problem nor its discretization. Especially we do not need the quasiuniformity of the employed triangulations. As the representation of a finite element function with respect to a hierarchical basis can be converted very easily and quickly to its representation with respect to a nodal basis, our results mean that the method of conjugate gradients needs onlyO(log n) steps andO(n log n) computer operations to reduce the energy norm of the error by a given factor if one uses hierarchical bases or related preconditioning procedures. Heren denotes the dimension of the finite element space and of the discrete linear problem to be solved.