Pollution error in the h-version of the finite element method and the local quality of the recovered derivatives
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In this paper, we address the quality of the solution derivatives which are recovered from finite element solutions by local averaging schemes. As an example, we consider the Zienkiewicz-Zhu superconvergent patch-recovery scheme (the ZZ-SPR scheme), and we study its accuracy in the interior of the mesh for finite element approximations of solutions of Laplace's equation in polygonal domains. We will demonstrate the following: (1) In general, the accuracy of the derivatives recovered by the ZZ-SPR or any other local averaging scheme may not be higher than the accuracy of the derivatives computed directly from the finite element solution. (2) If the mesh is globally adaptive (i.e. it is nearly equilibrated in the energy-norm) then we can, practically always, gain in accuracy by employing the recovered derivatives instead of the derivatives computed directly from the finite element solution. (3) It is possible to guarantee that the recovered solution-derivatives have higher accuracy than the derivatives computed directly from the finite element solution, in any patch of elements of interest, by employing a mesh which is adaptive only with respect to the patch of interest (i.e. it is nearly equilibrated in a weighted energy-norm). (4) In practice, we are often interested in obtaining highly accurate derivatives (or heat-fluxes, stresses, etc.) only in a few critical regions which are identified by a preliminary analysis. A grid which is adaptive only with respect to the critical regions of interest may be much more economical for this purpose because it may achieve the desired accuracy by employing substantially fewer degrees of freedom than a globally adaptive grid which achieves comparable accuracy in the critical regions.