Parallel computation of flow in heterogeneous media modelled by mixed finite elements

K. A. Cliffe, I. G. Graham, R. Scheichl, L. Stals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


In this paper we describe a fast parallel method for solving highly ill-conditioned saddle-point systems arising from mixed finite element simulations of stochastic partial differential equations (PDEs) modelling flow in heterogeneous media. Each realisation of these stochastic PDEs requires the solution of the linear first-order velocity-pressure system comprising Darcy's law coupled with an incompressibility constraint. The chief difficulty is that the permeability may be highly variable, especially when the statistical model has a large variance and a small correlation length. For reasonable accuracy, the discretisation has to be extremely fine. We solve these problems by first reducing the saddle-point formulation to a symmetric positive definite (SPD) problem using a suitable basis for the space of divergence-free velocities. The reduced problem is solved using parallel conjugate gradients preconditioned with an algebraically determined additive Schwarz domain decomposition preconditioner. The result is a solver which exhibits a good degree of robustness with respect to the mesh size as well as to the variance and to physically relevant values of the correlation length of the underlying permeability field. Numerical experiments exhibit almost optimal levels of parallel efficiency. The domain decomposition solver (DOUG, used here not only is applicable to this problem but can be used to solve general unstructured finite element systems on a wide range of parallel architectures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-282
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2000


  • Divergence-free space
  • Domain decomposition
  • Groundwater flow
  • Heterogeneous media
  • Parallel computation
  • Raviart-Thomas mixed finite elements
  • Second-order elliptic problems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Parallel computation of flow in heterogeneous media modelled by mixed finite elements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this