Finite Element Discretizations for Variable-Order Fractional Diffusion Problems

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We present a finite element discretization scheme for multidimensional fractional diffusion problems with spatially varying diffusivity and fractional order. We consider the symmetric integral form of these nonlocal equations defined on general geometries and in arbitrary bounded domains. A number of challenges are encountered when discretizing these equations. The first comes from the heterogeneous kernel singularity in the fractional integral operator. The second comes from the formally dense discrete operator with its quadratic growth in memory footprint and arithmetic operations. An additional challenge comes from the need to handle volume conditions—the generalization of classical local boundary conditions to the nonlocal setting. Satisfying these conditions requires that the effect of the whole domain, including both the interior and exterior regions, be computed on every interior point in the discretization. Performed directly, this would result in quadratic complexity. In order to address these challenges, we propose a strategy that decomposes the stiffness matrix into three components. The first is a sparse matrix that handles the singular near-field separately, and is computed by adapting singular quadrature techniques available for the homogeneous case to the case of spatially variable order. The second component handles the remaining smooth part of the near-field as well as the far-field, and is approximated by a hierarchical H2 matrix that maintains linear complexity in storage and operations. The third component handles the effect of the global mesh at every node, and is written as a weighted mass matrix whose density is computed by a fast-multipole type method. The resulting algorithm has therefore overall linear space and time complexity. Analysis of the consistency of the stiffness matrix is provided and numerical experiments are conducted to illustrate the convergence and performance of the proposed algorithm.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Scientific Computing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 16 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-09-07
Acknowledgements: This work is funded by the Extreme Computing Research Center at KAUST. The authors are grateful to anonymous referees for comments and suggestions that have significantly improved the quality of this paper.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Software
  • Engineering(all)


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