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Section: Application Domains

Homogenization and related problems

Over the years, the team has developed an increasing expertise on how to couple models written at the atomistic scale, with more macroscopic models, and, more generally, an expertise in multiscale modelling for materials science.

The following observation motivates the idea of coupling atomistic and continuum description of materials. In many situations of interest (crack propagation, presence of defects in the atomistic lattice, ...), using a model based on continuum mechanics is difficult. Indeed, such a model is based on a macroscopic constitutive law, the derivation of which requires a deep qualitative and quantitative understanding of the physical and mechanical properties of the solid under consideration. For many solids, reaching such an understanding is a challenge, as loads they are submitted to become larger and more diverse, and as experimental observations helping designing such models are not always possible (think of materials used in the nuclear industry). Using an atomistic model in the whole domain is not possible either, due to its prohibitive computational cost. Recall indeed that a macroscopic sample of matter contains a number of atoms on the order of 1023. However, it turns out that, in many situations of interest, the deformation that we are after is not smooth in only a small part of the solid. So, a natural idea is to try to take advantage of both models, the continuum mechanics one and the atomistic one, and to couple them, in a domain decomposition spirit. In most of the domain, the deformation is expected to be smooth, and reliable continuum mechanics models are then available. In the rest of the domain, the expected deformation is singular, one needs an atomistic model to describe it properly, the cost of which remains however limited as this region is small.

From a mathematical viewpoint, the question is to couple a discrete model with a model described by PDEs. This raises many questions, both from the theoretical and numerical viewpoints:

More generally, the presence of numerous length-scales in material science problems represents a challenge for numerical simulation, especially when some randomness is assumed on the materials. It can take various forms, and includes defects in crystals, thermal fluctuations, and impurities or heterogeneities in continuous media. Standard methods available in the literature to handle such problems often lead to very costly computations. Our goal is to develop numerical methods that are more affordable. Because we cannot embrace all difficulties at once, we focus on a simple case, where the fine scale and the coarse-scale models can be written similarly, in the form of a simple elliptic partial differential equation in divergence form. The fine scale model includes heterogeneities at a small scale, a situation which is formalized by the fact that the coefficients in the fine scale model vary on a small length scale. After homogenization, this model yields an effective, macroscopic model, which includes no small scale. In many cases, a sound theoretical groundwork exists for such homogenization results. We consider mostly the setting of stochastic homogenization of linear, scalar, second order elliptic PDEs, where analytical formulas for the effective properties are known. The difficulty stems from the fact that they generally lead to prohibitively costly computations. For such a case, simple from the theoretical viewpoint, our aim is to focus on different practical computational approaches to speed-up the computations. One possibility, among others, is to look for specific random materials, relevant from the practical viewpoint, and for which a dedicated approach can be proposed, that is less expensive than the general approach.