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Elasticity, Mathematical physics, Functional analysis, Approximation theory


We introduce a new mixed method for linear elasticity. The novelty is a simplicial element for the approximate stress. For every positive integer k, the row-wise divergence of the element space spans the set of polynomials of total degree k. The degrees of freedom are suited to achieve continuity of the normal stresses. What makes the element distinctive is that its dimension is the smallest required for enforcing a weak symmetry condition on the approximate stress. This is achieved using certain "bubble matrices", which are special divergence-free matrix-valued polynomials. We prove that the approximation error is of order k + 1 in both the displacement and the stress, and that a postprocessed displacement approximation converging at order k + 2 can be computed element by element. We also show that the globally coupled degrees of freedom can be reduced by hybridization to those of a displacement approximation on the element boundaries.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication. First published in Mathematics of Computation in Volume 79 Issue 271, published by the American Mathematical Society. This article can be found online at:



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