Finite Element Methods for Elliptic Equations

Part of the Texts in Applied Mathematics book series (TAM, volume 45)


Over the last decades the finite element method, which was introduced by engineers in the 1960s, has become the perhaps most important numerical method for partial differential equations, particularly for equations of elliptic and parabolic types. This method is based on the variational form of the boundary value problem and approximates the exact solution by a piecewise polynomial function. It is more easily adapted to the geometry of the underlying domain than the finite difference method, and for symmetric positive definite elliptic problems it reduces to a finite linear system with a symmetric positive definite matrix. We first introduce this method in Sect. 5.1 for the case of a two-point boundary value problem and show a number of error estimates. In Sect. 5.2 we then formulate the method for a two-dimensional model problem. Here the piecewise polynomial approximations are defined on triangulations of the spatial domain, and in the following Sect. 5.3 we study such approximation in more detail. In Sect. 5.4 we show basic error estimates for the finite element method for the model problem, using piecewise linear approximating functions. All error bounds derived up to this point contain a norm of the unknown exact solution and are therefore often referred to as a priori error estimates. In Sect. 5.5 we show a so-called a posteriori error estimate in which the error bound is expressed in terms of the data of the problem and the computed solution. In Sect. 5.6 we analyze the effect of numerical integration, which is often used when the finite element equations are assembled in a computer program. In Sect. 5.7 we briefly describe a so-called mixed finite element method.


Finite Element Method Elliptic Equation Quadrature Formula Interpolation Error Posteriori Error Estimate 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

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