Journal of Scientific Computing

, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 1862–1892 | Cite as

Error Analysis of a Fully Discrete Morley Finite Element Approximation for the Cahn–Hilliard Equation

  • Yukun LiEmail author


This paper proposes and analyzes the Morley element method for the Cahn–Hilliard equation. It is a fourth order nonlinear singular perturbation equation arises from the binary alloy problem in materials science, and its limit is proved to approach the Hele-Shaw flow. If the \(L^2(\Omega )\) error estimate is considered directly as in paper [14], we can only prove that the error bound depends on the exponential function of \(\frac{1}{\epsilon }\). Instead, this paper derives the error bound which depends on the polynomial function of \(\frac{1}{\epsilon }\) by considering the discrete \(H^{-1}\) error estimate first. There are two main difficulties in proving this polynomial dependence of the discrete \(H^{-1}\) error estimate. Firstly, it is difficult to prove discrete energy law and discrete stability results due to the complex structure of the bilinear form of the Morley element discretization. This paper overcomes this difficulty by defining four types of discrete inverse Laplace operators and exploring the relations between these discrete inverse Laplace operators and continuous inverse Laplace operator. Each of these operators plays important roles, and their relations are crucial in proving the discrete energy law, discrete stability results and error estimates. Secondly, it is difficult to prove the discrete spectrum estimate in the Morley element space because the Morley element space intersects with the \(C^1\) conforming finite element space but they are not contained in each other. Instead of proving this discrete spectrum estimate in the Morley element space, this paper proves a generalized coercivity result by exploring properties of the enriching operators and using the discrete spectrum estimate in its \(C^1\) conforming relative finite element space, which can be obtained by using the spectrum estimate of the Cahn–Hilliard operator. The error estimate in this paper provides an approach to prove the convergence of the numerical interfaces of the Morley element method to the interface of the Hele-Shaw flow.


Morley element Cahn–Hilliard equation Generalized coercivity result Conforming relative Hele-Shaw flow 

Mathematics Subject Classification

65N12 65N15 65N30 



The author Yukun Li highly thanks Professor Xiaobing Feng in the University of Tennessee at Knoxville for his valuable suggestions during the whole process of preparation of this manuscript, and Dr. Shuonan Wu in the Peking University for proofreading this manuscript carefully and giving lots of useful suggestions.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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