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Computational Mechanics (1992) 10, 307-318

Computational
Mechanics
@ Springer-Verlag 1992

Generalizing the finite element method:


Diffuse approximation and diffuse elements
B. Nayroles l, G. Touzot 2 and P. Villon 3
1 Institut de M6canique de Grenoble, CNRS (UMR 101)-Universit6 Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France
2 Universit6 de Technologie de Compi6gne-CNRS (D 6063)-P61e de Mod~lisation Picardie. Compi~gne, France
3 Universit6 de Technologie de Compi~gne-CNRS (URA 817)-P61e de Mod61isation Picardie. Compi6gne, France

Abstract. This paper describes the new "diffuse approximation" method, which may be presented as a generalization of the
widely used "finite element approximation" method. It removes some of the limitations of the finite element approximation
related to the regularity of approximated functions, and to mesh generation requirements. The diffuse approximation method
may be used for generating smooth approximations of functions known at given sets of points and for accurately estimating
their derivatives. It is useful as well for solving partial differential equations, leading to the so called "diffuse dement method"
(DEM), which presents several advantages compared to the "finite element method" (FEM), specially for evaluating the
derivatives of the unknown functions.

1 Introduction

The reasons of the success of the FEM are well known: local character of approximations, ability
to deal with complex geometrical domains, existence of a large set of approximation schemes
adapted to various problems but embedded in a unified formulation. However the FEM presents
two' main drawbacks. First, the approximate solutions provided by the FEM present a limited
regularity. Generally the solution itself is continuous but some of its derivatives are discontinuous
at elements boundaries, leading to difficulties of interpretation and the use of unsatisfactory
smoothing techniques. Second, generating adequate discretization meshes is a difficult task, in
particular for complex tridimensional domains. For instance, the development of auto-adaptive
methods is limited by the lack of efficient mesh generators able to dynamically adjust the size of
each individual element.
The objective of the present paper is to present a new approximation method, closely related
to the FEM, retaining most of its attractive features, but providing smoother approximations and
only requiring sets of discretization points (or nodes) and no explicit elements.

2 Finite element approximation

The FEM uses piecewise approximations of unknown functions which are written, on a given
element "e", as
m
ue(x) = (p(X)) (a e} = Z pj(x)a~, (1)
j=l

wherep is a vector of"m" independent fuflctions, most often polynomial terms, and a e is a vector
of "m" approximation parameters, constant on element "e".
Expressing that u e ( x ) takes the values ui at the n e nodes x~ of element "e" provides a set of
linear relations between a J~.and ui
308 Computational Mechanics 10 (1992)

If n e is equal to m, the matrix [ P . ] may in general be inverted, leading to the standard shape
functions Ni(x)
u(x) = (pj(x) ) [ P , ] - l{ui} = (Ni(x) ) {ui}. (3)

This interpolation procedure m a y also be seen as minimizing the following expression with respect
to - a e,, , for a given element "e"
ri e ne

Je(ae) = ~, (Ui -- tle(xi)) 2 = ~ (Ui -- (pj(xi) ~ { a e } ) 2


i=1 i=1
= ({u,} -- [Pn]{ae})r({Ul} -- [Pn]{ae}) i = 1,n e. (4)
The stationarity of j e leads to relation (2), if ne equals m, and moreover in such a case the m i n i m u m
value of d e is zero.
Another expression of .I e, equivalent to (4), is the following
n

Je(ae) ~- E w e ( u i - ue(xi)) 2' (5)


i=1

where n is the total n u m b e r of nodes, w e = 1 if node i belongs to element "e" and w e = 0 otherwise.

3 Diffuse approximation
The basic idea of the diffuse approximation is to replace the F E M interpolation, valid on an
element, by a local weighted least squares fitting, valid in a small neighbourhood of a point "$",
and based on n e nodes close to the point "$". This can be interpreted as a standard finite element
approximation, but only valid on a small area surrounding the point ":~", and based on a variable
n u m b e r of nodes.
Disconnecting the n u m b e r n e of nodes from the n u m b e r m of approximation parameters is
made possible due to the least squares fitting which replaces the standard F E M interpolation. The
approximate function is made s m o o t h by replacing the discontinuolas w e coefficients in (5) by
continuous weighting functions we'(x) evaluated at xv The vanishing of these weighting functions
we(x) at a certain distance from the point "~" preserves the local character of the approximation.
A r o u n d a point "$", the function u~(x) is locally approximated by an expression equivalent
to (1)
u~(x) = (p(x)){a e} = ~ pj(x)a~, (6)
j=l
so that the approximated value at point ":~" is u~(.~), simply noted as u(.~).
The coefficients aXe,corresponding to the point "~", are obtained by minimizing the following
9 . . J
expression, slmdar to (5)
n

JX(aye) = E wy:(xi)(ui- uX(xi))2, (7)


i=1
where w~(x) is a positive weighting function, which quickly decreases as II x - :~ [I increases. Using
(6), the latter relation becomes

JX(ae) = ~ we(x,)(u,- (p(x,)){a~}) 2 = ({ul} - [Pn]{ae})r[W]({u,} - [Pn] {ae}) J = 1,m. (8)


i=1
The matrix [ P . ] is not any more square, it has n rows and m columns. [W] is the following diagonal
matrix
w 1) "'" 0
[W] . . . . --- . (9)
''' W n
B. Nayroles et al.: Generalizing the finite element method: Diffuse approximation and diffuse elements 309

In practice, the weighting function vanishes outside a certain neighbourhood VS of the point "Y",
thus the only nodes involved in the summation in (8) are located in V~, preserving the local
character of the approximation.
The stationarity of J~'(a~) with respect to a ~ leads to the following linear relation between a ~
and u~, corresponding to (2) in the FEM
[Ae]{a e} = I-B~] {u,). (lo)

The matrix [A S] is a weighted sum of matrices [As] which correspond to the nodes "i" belonging
to the neighborhood V~ of the point "if"

[A S] = ~ we'(x~)[Ai]. (lla)
i=1

A matrix [All is the product of the polynomial basis, evaluated at node "i", by itself
[A,] = {v(x,) } (v(x,) 5.
The matrix [B ~] is a weighted sum of matrices IBm] which correspond to the nodes belonging to
the neighbourhood VS of the point "~"

[B e] = ~ w~:(xi)[B(I. (1 lb)
i=1

The coefficients of a matrix [B~] are zero except for the ith column which contains the polynomial
basis {p(xl)} evaluated at node "i"
EB,] = E.0.
Inverting relation (10) and using (6) leads to the following expression of the approximate function,
quite similar to the corresponding FEM relation
ue(x) = (p (x) ) { ae } = (p (x) ) [A e ~ - ~[B e ] {u, } (12)

or introducing the shape functions N ~ at point "if"


ue(x) = (N~(x)) {u,}, (N~(x)) = (p(x)) [A~]- 1[Be]. (13, 14)
The rank and conditioning of matrix [A e] depend on the relative locations of the nodes belonging
to V~. For instance, in two dimensions, [A ~] is singular if the nodes are located on a straight line.
A necessary condition to get a non singular [A ~] matrix is the existence of at least "m" nodes in V~.
Theestimate(6~xU ) o f t h e d e r i v a t i v e ( t 3 ~ ) o f a f u n c t i o n u a t p o i n t ~ i s o b t a i n e d b y d i f f e r e n -
s
tiating p(x) with respect to x in (6), considering a S as a constant.
For instance
@
(15)

or from (13)-(14)
6u) / 6N ~ \
(16, 17)

If the weighting function is continuous with respect to if, the shape functions (14) and the
approximating function (t3) are continuous with respect to :~, as well as the shape functions of the
derivatives and the estimates of the derivatives up to order "m".
310 Computational Mechanics10 (1992)

4 Convergence of approximation

Let us consider a function u(x) having a Taylor expansion up to order k around a point ~, expressed
here in one dimension for simplicity
y( dU~ + yk ( dku ~ yk+l
u(~2+ y)=u(~)+ \-d~x] +... ~\~Xk] +(k + l)!r(~,y)

u(:~+ y) = (ly...y k) ... + (k + 1)! r(2,y)

k!kdxk]~
yk+ 1
u(~ + y) = ( p ( y ) ) { ~} + (k + 1)! r(2, y)" (18)

We now consider the diffuse approximation of u(x) at ~ as defined by (6)


u (x) : (v(x) )
It may be transformed by the change of coordinates origin x ~ y = x - ~ into
uX(i + y) = (p(x - s [Q(ff)] {a ~} = (p(y) ) {a~}.
As a two dimensional example, if the polynomial basis is linear
(p(x))=(1 x y).
Thus

I-Q(2) = 1 .
0

Hence the diffuse approximation may be considered as an estimate of the Taylor expansion of u
up to order k expressed by (18). It justifies the estimates of the derivatives proposed in (15),
expressed here as

(~Ju~ =~..j, j<k.


~xj/~ =
Moreover, one can demonstrate (Nayroles et al. 1991a) that

i ek+l "'" 02t 1 {vector independent of e}, (19)


{ ~ } - {~te} . . . . (k + 1)~
, , ,

where e is a constant related to the size of the neighbourhood V~ of the point 2 used in the diffuse
approximation.
Thus there is a constant ~:0~) such that

- _ _ j = 0 . . . . , k. (20)
\dxJ/~ \~xJ/~l < ~c(X)(k+ 1)!
B. Nayroleset al.: Generalizingthe finiteelementmethod:Diffuseapproximationand diffuseelements 311

Similar results are obtained in more than one dimension. Additional mathematical details are
provided in Nayroles et al. (1991c).

5 Properties of the diffuse approximation

5.1 Approximation of basis functions


One can easily show that, like the finite element approximation, the diffuse approximation is exact
for any function built as a linear combination of the basis functions pj(x). Thus the shape functions
satisfy the well known relations
m
pj(xi)Ni(x) = pj(x) j = 1,...,m. (21)
i=l

5.2 Interpolation
Without additional hypothesis, the diffuse approximation does not exactly verify the interpolation
property
Ni(xj)=6ij i,j= 1,...,m. (22)
In practice, this property is verified with a good accuracy except in the vicinity of points where
the function u is discontinuous or the gradients of u are very large. Moreover the diffuse approxi-
mation can locally be an exact interpolation at a node "i" (taking exactly the value ui at this node),
if the choice of the weighting function is such that locally the number of nodes used for evaluating
the approximation at node "i" is equal to the number of approximation parameters.

5.3 Continuity
As mentioned before, if the weighting function is continuous and the matrix [A ~] is regular for
every ~, then the approximate function u and the estimates of its derivatives ~ x~up to order l = k

are continuous.

6 Practical use of the diffuse approximation

Using the diffuse approximation requires the choice, at every~point ~ where the approximation is
required,
- - o f the functional basis of the approximation (p(x)>,
- - o f the weighting function w~(x), leading to its support' V~ where the weighting function is
numerically different from zero, and to the list of nodes included in Ve referred to as the
nodes connected to the point ft.

6.1 Nodes 9eneration


The discretization points (or nodes) may be generated by a number of techniques, such as using
a part of a FEM mesh generator program, random shooting methods, quadtree or octree based
methods. In any case it is much easier to add and remove nodes, or to locally modify the
distribution of nodes than to rebuild complete FEM meshes.
312 Computational Mechanics 10 (1992)

6.2 Choice of weightingfunctions (WFs)

As a consequence of (19) and (20), the accuracy of the diffuse approximation method is directly
related to the choice of the WFs. They may vary from point to point, in order to match the local
characteristics of the function to be approximated, based on user knowledge or on auto-adaptive
methods. At any point one has to select both the formal expression of the WF, and the values of
the parameters involved in its expression, such as the size of its support.
If the WF is constant over the domain, the diffuse approximation is a simple least squares
fitting of a polynomial function.
If the WFs are constant over selected sub-domains, the diffuse approximation may be made
identical to the finite element approximation.
The WFs may also be chosen in such a way to have a constant number of nodes in the
neighbourhood V~ of every point 2.
The three following examples of weighting functions have been successfully tested. They take
the value 8 for II x - ~ II = dma x
a) rational fraction:
1
w~(x) = v(ll x - ~ II) with: v(d) = (23)
+

b) Gauss like function:


F / d
@(x) = v( IIx - ~ II) with: v(d)= e x p | L o g ( e ) [ (24)
L ~dmax/ A
c) triangle function:
w~(x ) = v( ll x - ~ ii)
with: v(d)= 1 -
Id1(1-8) if Id15 dmax
dmax (1 - 8)
dmax
v(d) = 0 if [dl > (1 - 8----)" (25)

These functions present a symmetry around 2. But it may be helpful to use anisotropic WFs, for
instance to fit a steep front.

6.3 Possible uses of diffuse approximation


The diffuse approximation method may be used for a number of purposes, such as:
a) the smoothing of data and the representation of functions in 1, 2 and 3 dimensions, when
the regularity of the approximate function is important. Adding constraints to the minimization
procedure (7) allows to build approximate functions which verify additional algebraic or differ-
ential relations such as differential equilibrium equations or plasticity yielding criterium. This may
be helpful for instance in transfering information from an old mesh to a new one, after remeshings
required by large strains plasticity analysis. It may also be used to impose zero divergence
constraints to displacement fields.
b) the numerical derivation of functions: the diffuse approximation can generate new "finite
difference like" formula based on any irregular set of discretization points.
c) the solving of ordinary or partial differential equations by different methods including:
--collocation methods, taking advantage of the ability of the diffuse approximation method
to provide continuous derivative estimates:
B. Nayroles et al.: Generalizing the finite element method: Diffuse approximation and diffuse elements 313

--Galerkin methods, leading to the diffuse element method (DEM) which appears to be very
close to the FEM.

7 Implementation of the diffuse elements method (DEM)

Using the diffuse approximation in a Galerkin formulation may be implemented in different ways:
a) The simplest way consists in replacing the FEM shape functions (3) by the diffuse approxi-
mation shape functions (14) at the integration points of standard elements, in an existing FEM
programme. The elements are not any more useful for the approximations, but they may still be
used for numerical integration purposes. The only modification required is the management of
possibly different lists of nodes (connectivity) at different integration points of the same element.
This may be used for instance to create new plates and shells elements due to the regularity
of the approximation.
b) One can also directly define two separate sets of points:
- - a set of "nodes" at which discrete values of the unknown functions are defined (displace-
ments, velocities,...)
- - a set of "evaluation points" at which the useful derivatives of the unknown functions are
evaluated as well as related quantities: strains, stresses, virtual work density ....
The computations to be executed at an evaluation point are very similar to those at a FEM
integration point. But in the DEM, the virtual work corresponding to an evaluation point is
obtained by multiplying the density of virtual work evaluated at this point by the "measure" (area
for 2D, volume for 3D) of some surrounding "virtual domain of influence". This measure cor-
responds to the product of a numerical integration weighting coefficient by the area of an element,
in the standard FEM. The actual geometry of the domain has not to be explicitly defined. But the
sum of the measures attributed to all the evaluation points has to be equal to the measure of the
global domain.
Each evaluation point of the DEM may be considered as a particular kind of finite element with:
- - o n l y one integration point,
- - a number of nodes varying from point to point,
- - a diffuse (or fuzzy) domain of influence, the measure of this domain being the only meaningful
information.
In practice one defines the number of nodes to be connected to each "evaluation point", for instance
equal to the number of terms in the polynomial basis plus one or two. Then the parameters of the
weighting functions are selected in such a way that the WF takes a small residual value at the last
selected node.
As a consequence, the implementation of the diffuse element method is quite similar to that of
the FEM, the only change being the replacement of the two loops over elements and integration
points in the FEM, by only one loop over evaluation points in the DEM.

~' 9 I I I

s ,~ s 9 %
.... ---- % 9 9
-.. , . . . . ,

9 Nodes
+ Integration points 9 Nodes
Connections between dCf'~ Integration points
Figs. 1 and 2. 1 Use of diffuse ap-
9 integration points and nodes Connections between
proximation at integration points of
finite element ~ integration points and nodes
finite elements. 2 Direct use of diffuse
approximation at integration points
1 2 without finite elements
314 Computational Mechanics 10 (1992)

FlgM DEM

Loot) over evaluation ooints

A = area of an element
a = measure of influence domain
Initialize element stiffness element stiffness = a BT D B

Loon over intearation points Assembly of element sUl~ess


into global stiffness

w = integration weighting
coefficient

A d d : A w B T D B to
element stlI]hess

Assembly of element stiffness


into global stiffness
Fig. 3. Computation steps in FEM
and DEM

8 One-dimensional example

Example 1: Approximation of the step function. This example presents a diffuse approximation
of the step function centered at the origin. The distance between the sampling points is 1.0. As the
sampling points are symmetrically distributed with respect to the origin, the estimates graphs are
symmetrical with respect to the point (0, 0.5).
For comparison purposes, the results corresponding to the following three weighting functions
are displayed (Fig. 4).

Gauss function: wl(r) = exp - ((#) with 2 = 1.09

1.00
10
~, weightingfunction aperture 32 I , ,,';e"
|=" ' ",'""
I

08 ~... Gauss .........


.N~., Triangular
06
0.75
0t.
02 y degree 1

o o.5 ~0 1.5 2.o 2.5 3)0 o,5o 0.5 1.5

~
4 5

1.00
imate "
agree 2
0.75

0.50
0 0.5 1.5 Figs. 4-6. 4 Different weighting functions. 5 Approximation of a step function
(linear polynomial basis). 6 Approximation of a step function (quadratic
polynomial basis)
B. Nayroles et al.: Generalizing the finite element method: Diffuse approximation and diffuse elements 315

if Irl=<2
Sine function: with 2 = 1.6
0 if Irl > 2

Triangular function: w'(r)= t 1-~ if Irl=2 with 2 = 1.6


0 if Irl > 2
With the chosen values of 4, the aperture of the three functions are approximately or exactly equal
to 3.2. Thus an interval of length 3.2 contains at least 3 points, but contains exactly 3 points if it
is centered at a sampling point. Hence the approximation is an interpolation for the degree 2
polynomial basis, but is not exactly an interpolation for degree 1. It can be seen on Figs. 5 and 6
that the approximation is not better if it is an interpolation, due to a Gibbs like effect.
Degree 1 and degree 2 diffuse approximations provide first derivative estimates shown on
Figs. 7 and 8. Of course the true derivative reduces to the Dirac distribution at the origin. It can
be proved that the half areas under the derivative estimates are equal to 0.5. Moreover these
derivative estimates converge to the Dirac distribution (Nayroles et al. 1991c) when e converges
to zero while the coordinates of the sampling points are:
. . . . 1.5e -0.5~ +0.5e + 1.5e...
An equivalent result may be obtained for the second derivative presented in Fig. 9.
A basic property of the diffuse approximation can also be observed on the figures: all the
derivative estimates are continuous whereas the derivative of the estimates obtained from the non
smooth triangular weighting function are obviously discontinuous.

9 Two-dimensionalexamples

Example 2: Laplace equation with mixed boundary conditions. Let us consider the simple example
of mixed boundary value problem
Au = -8zr 2 cos 2rcxl sin 2ztx 2 for: 0 < x l < 1 and 0 < x 2 < 1 (26.1)

1.0 1.0
='# === 9

= ""', Derivativeestimate Derivativeestimate


degree 2
0.5 0.5

o , "" ........... o
0 0.5 1.5 0.5 115
7 8
0 0.5 1.0 1.5

= /"
Second'derivative '/l"" """".... J

Figs. 7-9. 7 Approximation of the first derivative of a step function (linear


polynomial basis). 8 Approximation of the first derivative of a step function
(quadratic polynomial basis). 9 Approximation of the second derivative of a
step function (quadratic polynomial basis)
316 Computational Mechanics 10 (1992)

u(xl, O) = u(x, 1) = 0 for: 0 < xl < 1 (26.2)


c~u
=0 for: 0 < x2 < 1 and xl = 0 or 1. (26.3)
ax~
The obvious solution is
u = cos 2nxl sin 2rCXz. (27)
We are now to give comparisons between FEM and DEM solutions using regular meshes with
"m" x "m" nodes, with m equal to 9 and 17.
The FEM analysis uses four nodes quadrilateral elements with 2 by 2 integration points. The
DEM analysis uses evaluation points for the gradient of u located at the center of the FEM
elements. Thus the number of evaluation points of the DEM is four times smaller than the number
of integration points of the FEM. The approximation is based on a linear polynomial basis and
on the Gauss weighting function of example 1. Each evaluation point is connected to its four closest
nodes, the coefficient 2 being such that the weighting function is equal to ~ = 10-3 at the most
distant connected node.
Relative errors on u and its derivatives are displayed in the following table, the error on "f"
being defined as

error = I ~ 1x ~-T
1 oi~n lapp fexact [
If p ti-,i -- i
N is the total number of points. (28)
Ou Ou
Method (nodes) u
~xt Ox2
FEM (9 • 9) 2.3 e-2 13.9 e-2 13.9 e-2
DEM (9 • 9) 2.4 e-2 2.2 e-2 2.2 e-2
FEM (17 x 17) 5.6e-3 3.3e-2 13.9e-2
DEM (17 • 17) 5.6e-3 5.3e-3 5.3e-3

As far as this academic example is concerned, the DEM is much better than the FEM for the
computation of gradients.
gu
Figure 10 shows the approximte fields obtained by FEM and DEM with 17 x 17 nodes.
Ox2
Example3: Two-dimensional elasticity. The Saint-Venant beam in Fig. 11 is studied by both
FEM and DEM. The plane stress assumption is made and numerical results are compared to the
well known Saint-Venant theoretical solution. The mechanical constants are:
- - Y o u n g modulus: 1000
--Poisson ratio: 0.3.
Geometrical dimensions are indicated in Fig. 11.
Q:'I
F='I

2Pi 2P ~ .

A ess=l

lOa FEM ~ b DEM

Figs. l0 and l l . 10a, b x-derivative of the solution provided by a FEM and b DEM. ~NN.~"x~
11 Saint-Venant beam 11 ~\\\\\\\'~
B. Nayroles et al.: Generalizing the finite element method: Diffuse approximation and diffuse elements 317

Pattern P1 Pattern P2

t-N§ / ' ~ § / .=--


+.,/ ( § \ / '\*/'
9 I- .1- § / ,,,, § § §
f § \./ § \ / § \
~\§ /\ § / ~.N+/,"
=~ll == %,(§ """ §
,,i-/ N §247

I " Fig. 12a and b. Patterns of evaluation points; a Pattern P1; b


+ Evaluation point 9 Node Pattern P2

Computations are made in two meshes:


Mesh df Number of elements

MI 126 2 x 20
M2 410 2 x 40

The finite elements model uses square four nodes elements, with four Gauss points and a bi-linear
polynomial interpolation (a 0 + alx + a2y + a3xy).
The diffuse element method uses a linear polynomial basis (ao + alx + a2y) and either the
Gauss (24) or the triangle (25) weighting function with at least four nodes connected to each
evaluation point. The examples make use of two different patterns of evaluation points defined in
Fig. 12.
Tables 1 and 2 present the x-displacement uB of point B, whose theoretical value (strength of
materials) 'is 4.03, as well as the stress tensor components at point A: tra = (trxx cryr tL,r), whose
theoretical values (0 30 0). In the FEM, point A belonging to two finite elements, the stress tensor
is different in the lower element (o'~) and in the upper one (o-~). A widely used smoothing technique
consists of averaging the values (tr,~) and (o'~) at node A.

Table 1. Diffuse element method

Mesh Pattern Triangle WF Gauss W F

M1 (2 x 20) P1 u B -- 3.64 u~ = 3.59


~rA=(-1.20 26.89 -0.70) O A = ( - - 1 . 2 4 26.47 --0.70)
M1 (2 x 20) P2 uB = 4.003 UA= 4.009
crA = (2.19 30.59 - 0 . 7 2 ) ~ra = ( 2 . 1 9 30.64 - - 0 . 7 1 )
M2 (4 x 40) P1 uB = 3.94 Ua = 3.92
o"A = ( - 0 . 6 5 29.17 -0.28) O A = ( - - 0 . 6 7 29.04 --0.28)
M2 (4 x 40) P2 u, = 4.018 UB= 4.01
a,4 = (1.09 30.32 - 0 . 5 3 ) O"a = (1.09 30.32 - - 0 . 5 3 )

Table 2. Finite element method

uB = 3.58
M 1 (2 x 20) a_,~=(4.85 29.56 4.48)
oA=(3.97 26.61 - - 5 . 8 1 )
UB = 3.90
M2 (4 x 40) a~ = ( 2 . 6 4 30.64 2.29)
O,i = (2.16 29.04 - - 3 . 3 0 )
318 Computational Mechanics 10(1992)

10 Conclusions

A new approximation method, called diffuse approximation, has been presented. It is based on a
local weighted least squares polynomial fitting. It provides local but continuous approximations
of 1-, 2- and 3-dimensional functions and of their successive derivatives. The new method has been
used for solving partial differential equations using virtual work formulations leading to the new
diffuse elements method (DEM), which may be viewed as a generalization of the finite element
method. The DEM provides better gradients of the unknown functions than the FEM. Moreover
it is very easy to introduce it into existing FEM programmes.
A number of further applications of the diffuse approximation and of the diffuse element
method are possible, including error estimations for auto-adaptive methods, transfer of informa-
tion after remeshings, building of approximate functions subjected to constraints, creation of new
plate elements. Moreover the flexibility of the DEM concerning the connectivity and the weighting
coefficients makes it very attractive for crack or damage propagation simulations. But additional
numerical studies are required in order to optimize the choices of weighting functions, polynomial
basis and connectivity, in various situations.

References

Nayroles, B.; Touzot, G.; Villon, P. (1991a): La m6thode des 616mentsdiffus. C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, t. 313, S6rie II, pp 293-296
Nayroles, B.; Touzot, G.; Villon, P. (1991b): L'approximation diffuse. C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, t. 313, S6rie II, pp 133-138
Nayroles, B.; Touzot, G.; Villon, P. (1991c): Nuages de Points et Approximation diffuse. S6minaire d'analyse convexe, Expos6
n ~ 16, Universit6 de Montpellier II
Nayroles, B.; Touzot, G.: Using diffuse approximation for optimizing antisound sources location. (submitted to J.S.V.)

Communicated by M. Kleiber, February 27, 1992