A finite element solution for the fractional advectiondispersion equation Academic Article uri icon


  • The fractional advection-dispersion equation (FADE) known as its non-local dispersion, has been proven to be a promising tool to simulate anomalous solute transport in groundwater. We present an unconditionally stable finite element (FEM) approach to solve the one-dimensional FADE based on the Caputo definition of the fractional derivative with considering its singularity at the boundaries. The stability and accuracy of the FEM solution is verified against the analytical solution, and the sensitivity of the FEM solution to the fractional order and the skewness parameter is analyzed. We find that the proposed numerical approach converge to the numerical solution of the advection-dispersion equation (ADE) as the fractional order equals 2. The problem caused by using the first- or third-kind boundary with an integral-order derivative at the inlet is remedied by using the third-kind boundary with a fractional-order derivative there. The problems for concentration estimation at boundaries caused by the singularity of the fractional derivative can be solved by using the concept of transition probability conservation. The FEM solution of this study has smaller numerical dispersion than that of the FD solution by Meerschaert and Tadjeran (J Comput Appl Math 2004). For a given , the spatial distribution of concentration exhibits a symmetric non-Fickian behavior when = 0. The spatial distribution of concentration shows a Fickian behavior on the left-hand side of the spatial domain and a notable non-Fickian behavior on the right-hand side of the spatial domain when = 1, whereas when = -1 the spatial distribution of concentration is the opposite of that of = 1. Finally, the numerical approach is applied to simulate the atrazine transport in a saturated soil column and the results indicat that the FEM solution of the FADE could better simulate the atrazine transport process than that of the ADE, especially at the tail of the breakthrough curves.

published proceedings

  • Advances in Water Resources

author list (cited authors)

  • Huang, Q., Huang, G., & Zhan, H

publication date

  • January 1, 2008 11:11 AM