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Title: Efficient simulation of cardiac electrical propagation using adaptive high-order finite elements
Author: Arthurs, Christopher J.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis investigates the high-order hierarchical finite element method, also known as the finite element p-version, as a computationally-efficient technique for generating numerical solutions to the cardiac monodomain equation. We first present it as a uniform-order method, and through an a priori error bound we explain why the associated cardiac cell model must be thought of as a PDE and approximated to high-order in order to obtain the accuracy that the p-version is capable of. We perform simulations demonstrating that the achieved error agrees very well with the a priori error bound. Further, in terms of solution accuracy for time taken to solve the linear system that arises in the finite element discretisation, it is more efficient that the state-of-the-art piecewise linear finite element method. We show that piecewise linear FEM actually introduces quite significant amounts of error into the numerical approximations, particularly in the direction perpendicular to the cardiac fibres with physiological conductivity values, and that without resorting to extremely fine meshes with elements considerably smaller than 70 micrometres, we can not use it to obtain high-accuracy solutions. In contrast, the p-version can produce extremely high accuracy solutions on meshes with elements around 300 micrometres in diameter with these conductivities. Noting that most of the numerical error is due to under-resolving the wave-front in the transmembrane potential, we also construct an adaptive high-order scheme which controls the error locally in each element by adjusting the finite element polynomial basis degree using an analytically-derived a posteriori error estimation procedure. This naturally tracks the location of the wave-front, concentrating computational effort where it is needed most and increasing computational efficiency. The scheme can be controlled by a user-defined error tolerance parameter, which sets the target error within each element as a proportion of the local magnitude of the solution as measured in the H^1 norm. This numerical scheme is tested on a variety of problems in one, two and three dimensions, and is shown to provide excellent error control properties and to be likely capable of boosting efficiency in cardiac simulation by an order of magnitude. The thesis amounts to a proof-of-concept of the increased efficiency in solving the linear system using adaptive high-order finite elements when performing single-thread cardiac simulation, and indicates that the performance of the method should be investigated in parallel, where it can also be expected to provide considerable improvement. In general, the selection of a suitable preconditioner is key to ensuring efficiency; we make use of a variety of different possibilities, including one which can be expected to scale very well in parallel, meaning that this is an excellent candidate method for increasing the efficiency of cardiac simulation using high-performance computing facilities.
Supervisor: Kay, David; Bishop, Martin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Computer science (mathematics) ; Functional analysis (mathematics) ; Mathematical biology ; Numerical analysis ; Partial differential equations ; Biophysics ; Finite element method ; monodomain ; bidomain ; cardiac electrophysiology ; computational physiology ; adaptive numerical method