A general topology-based framework for adaptive insertion of cohesive elements in finite element meshes

Glaucio H. Paulino, Waldemar Celes, Rodrigo Espinha, Zhengyu Jenny Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Large-scale simulation of separation phenomena in solids such as fracture, branching, and fragmentation requires a scalable data structure representation of the evolving model. Modeling of such phenomena can be successfully accomplished by means of cohesive models of fracture, which are versatile and effective tools for computational analysis. A common approach to insert cohesive elements in finite element meshes consists of adding discrete special interfaces (cohesive elements) between bulk elements. The insertion of cohesive elements along bulk element interfaces for fragmentation simulation imposes changes in the topology of the mesh. This paper presents a unified topology-based framework for supporting adaptive fragmentation simulations, being able to handle two- and three-dimensional models, with finite elements of any order. We represent the finite element model using a compact and 'complete' topological data structure, which is capable of retrieving all adjacency relationships needed for the simulation. Moreover, we introduce a new topology-based algorithm that systematically classifies fractured facets (i.e., facets along which fracture has occurred). The algorithm follows a set of procedures that consistently perform all the topological changes needed to update the model. The proposed topology-based framework is general and ensures that the model representation remains always valid during fragmentation, even when very complex crack patterns are involved. The framework correctness and efficiency are illustrated by arbitrary insertion of cohesive elements in various finite element meshes of self-similar geometries, including both two- and three-dimensional models. These computational tests clearly show linear scaling in time, which is a key feature of the present data-structure representation. The effectiveness of the proposed approach is also demonstrated by dynamic fracture analysis through finite element simulations of actual engineering problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-78
Number of pages20
JournalEngineering with Computers
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Cohesive zone models (CZM)
  • Extrinsic model
  • Fragmentation simulation
  • Intrinsic model
  • Topological data structure


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