Efficient block preconditioning for a C1 finite element discretisation of the Dirichlet biharmonic problem

J. Pestana, R. Muddle, M. Heil, F. Tisseur, M. Mihajlovic

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We present an efficient block preconditioner for the two-dimensional biharmonic Dirichlet problem discretised by C1 bicubic Hermite finite elements. In this formulation each node in the mesh has four different degrees of freedom (DOFs). Grouping DOFs of the same type together leads to a natural blocking of the Galerkin coefficient matrix. Based on this block structure, we develop two preconditioners: a 2×2 block diagonal preconditioner (BD) and a block bordered diagonal (BBD) preconditioner. We prove mesh-independent bounds for the spectra of the BD-preconditioned Galerkin matrix under certain conditions. The eigenvalue analysis is based on the fact that the proposed preconditioner, like the coefficient matrix itself, is symmetric positive definite and is assembled from element matrices. We demonstrate the effectiveness of an inexact version of the BBD preconditioner, which exhibits near-optimal scaling in terms of computational cost with respect to the discrete problem size. Finally, we study robustness of this preconditioner with respect to element stretching, domain distortion and non-convex domains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)A325-A345
Number of pages21
JournalSIAM Journal on Scientific Computing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2016


  • biharmonic equation
  • hermite bicubic finite elements
  • block preconditioning
  • conjugate gradient method
  • algebraic multigrid

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