Published in Adv. Model. and Simul. in Eng. Sci. Vol. 3, art. 13, 2016
Discretization processes leading to numerical schemes sometimes produce undesirable effects. One potentially serious problem is that a discretization may produce the loss of validity of some of the physical principles or mathematical properties originally present in the continuous equation. Such loss may lead to uncertain results such as numerical instabilities or unexpected non-physical solutions. As a consequence, the compatibility of a discrete formulation with respect to intrinsic physical principles might be essential for the success of a numerical scheme. This paper addresses such type of issue. Its main objective is to demonstrate that standard Finite Element discretizations of the heat conduction equation violate Clausius’s postulate of the second law of thermodynamics, at nodal level. The problem occurs because non-physical, reversed nodal heat-fluxes arise in such discretizations. Conditions for compatibility of discrete nodal heat-fluxes with respect to Clausius’s postulate are derived here and named discrete thermodynamic compatibility conditions (DTCC). Simple numerical examples are presented to show the undesirable consequences of such failure. It must be pointed out that such DTCCs have previously appeared in the context of the study of the conditions that make discrete solutions to satisfy the discrete maximum principle (DMP). However, the present article does not put attention on such mathematical principle but on the satisfaction of a fundamental physical one: the second law of thermodynamics. Of course, from the presented point of view, it is clear that the violation of such fundamental law will cause, among different problems, the violation of the DMP.
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