Mixed finite element – discontinuous finite volume element discretization of a general class of multicontinuum models

Ricardo Ruiz-Baier, Ivan Lunati

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14 Citations (Scopus)


We present a novel discretization scheme tailored to a class of multiphase models that regard the physical system as consisting of multiple interacting continua. In the framework of mixture theory, we consider a general mathematical model that entails solving a system of mass and momentum equations for both the mixture and one of the phases. The model results in a strongly coupled and nonlinear system of partial differential equations that are written in terms of phase and mixture (barycentric) velocities, phase pressure, and saturation. We construct an accurate, robust and reliable hybrid method that combines a mixed finite element discretization of the momentum equations with a primal discontinuous finite volume-element discretization of the mass (or transport) equations. The scheme is devised for unstructured meshes and relies on mixed Brezzi–Douglas–Marini approximations of phase and total velocities, on piecewise constant elements for the approximation of phase or total pressures, as well as on a primal formulation that employs discontinuous finite volume elements defined on a dual diamond mesh to approximate scalar fields of interest (such as volume fraction, total density, saturation, etc.). As the discretization scheme is derived for a general formulation of multicontinuum physical systems, it can be readily applied to a large class of simplified multiphase models; on the other, the approach can be seen as a generalization of these models that are commonly encountered in the literature and employed when the latter are not sufficiently accurate. An extensive set of numerical test cases involving two- and three-dimensional porous media are presented to demonstrate the accuracy of the method (displaying an optimal convergence rate), the physics-preserving properties of the mixed–primal scheme, as well as the robustness of the method (which is successfully used to simulate diverse physical phenomena such as density fingering, Terzaghi's consolidation, deformation of a cantilever bracket, and Boycott effects). The applicability of the method is not limited to flow in porous media, but can also be employed to describe many other physical systems governed by a similar set of equations, including e.g. multi-component materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-688
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Discontinuous finite volume-element methods
  • Mixed finite element methods
  • Mixture theory
  • Momentum and mass coupling
  • Multiphase flow

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