A Schur complement formulation for solving free-boundary, Stefan problems of phase change

Lisa Lun, Andrew Yeckel, Jeffrey J Derby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A Schur complement formulation that utilizes a linear iterative solver is derived to solve a free-boundary, Stefan problem describing steady-state phase change via the Isotherm-Newton approach, which employs Newton's method to simultaneously and efficiently solve for both interface and field equations. This formulation is tested alongside more traditional solution strategies that employ direct or iterative linear solvers on the entire Jacobian matrix for a two-dimensional sample problem that discretizes the field equations using a Galerkin finite-element method and employs a deforming-grid approach to represent the melt-solid interface. All methods demonstrate quadratic convergence for sufficiently accurate Newton solves, but the two approaches utilizing linear iterative solvers show better scaling of computational effort with problem size. Of these two approaches, the Schur formulation proves to be more robust, converging with significantly smaller Krylov subspaces than those required to solve the global system of equations. Further improvement of performance are made through approximations and preconditioning of the Schur complement problem. Hence, the new Schur formulation shows promise as an affordable, robust, and scalable method to solve free-boundary, Stefan problems. Such models are employed to study a wide array of applications, including casting, welding, glass forming, planetary mantle and glacier dynamics, thermal energy storage, food processing, cryosurgery, metallurgical solidification, and crystal growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7942-7955
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Crystal growth
  • Free-boundary
  • Schur complement
  • Solidification
  • Stefan problem

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