Massively parallel adaptive mesh refinement and coarsening for dynamic fracture simulations

Andrei Alhadeff, Sofie E. Leon, Waldemar Celes, Glaucio H. Paulino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We use the graphical processing unit (GPU) to perform dynamic fracture simulation using adaptively refined and coarsened finite elements and the inter-element cohesive zone model. Due to the limited memory available on the GPU, we created a specialized data structure for efficient representation of the evolving mesh given. To achieve maximum efficiency, we perform finite element calculation on a nodal basis (i.e., by launching one thread per node and collecting contributions from neighboring elements) rather than by launching threads per element, which requires expensive graph coloring schemes to avoid concurrency issues. These developments made possible the parallel adaptive mesh refinement and coarsening schemes to systematically change the topology of the mesh. We investigate aspects of the parallel implementation through microbranching examples, which has been explored experimentally and numerically in the literature. First, we use a reduced-scale version of the experimental specimen to demonstrate the impact of variation in floating point operations on the final fracture pattern. Interestingly, the parallel approach adds some randomness into the finite element simulation on the structured mesh in a similar way as would be expected from a random mesh. Next, we take advantage of the speedup of the implementation over a similar serial implementation to simulate a specimen whose size matches that of the actual experiment. At this scale, we are able to make more direct comparisons to the original experiment and find excellent agreement with those results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-552
Number of pages20
JournalEngineering with Computers
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Adaptive mesh coarsening
  • Adaptive mesh refinement
  • Cohesive zone model
  • Finite elements
  • GPU computing
  • Microbranching


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