A numerical scheme for free boundary problems that are gradient flows for the area functional

Europ. J. Appl. Math., 11, issue 2, pp. 61-80
A numerical scheme for free boundary problems that are gradient flows for the area functional
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Abstract

Many moving boundary problems that are driven in some way by the curvature of the free boundary are gradient flows for the area of the moving interface. Examples are the Mullins-Sekerka flow, the Hele-Shaw flow, flow by mean curvature, and flow by averaged mean curvature. The gradient flow structure suggests an implicit finite differences approach to compute numerical solutions.

The proposed numerical scheme will allow to treat such free boundary problems in both R2 and R3. The advantage of such an approach is the re-usability of much of the setup for all of the different problems. As an example of the method we will compute solutions to the averaged mean curvature flow that exhibit the formation of a singularity.

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We present a numerical scheme for radially symmetric solutions to curvature driven moving boundary problems governed by a local law of motion, e.g. the mean curvature flow, the surface diffusion flow, and the Willmore flow. We then present several numerical experiments for the Willmore flow. In particular, we provide numerical evidence that the Willmore flow can develop singularities in finite time.

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