Thermodynamically consistent and positivity-preserving discretization of the thin-film equation with thermal noise

by   Benjamin Gess, et al.

In micro-fluidics not only does capillarity dominate but also thermal fluctuations become important. On the level of the lubrication approximation, this leads to a quasi-linear fourth-order parabolic equation for the film height h driven by space-time white noise. The gradient flow structure of its deterministic counterpart, the thin-film equation, which encodes the balance between driving capillary and limiting viscous forces, provides the guidance for the thermodynamically consistent introduction of fluctuations. We follow this route on the level of a spatial discretization of the gradient flow structure. Starting from an energetically conformal finite-element (FE) discretization, we point out that the numerical mobility function introduced by Grün and Rumpf can be interpreted as a discretization of the metric tensor in the sense of a mixed FE method with lumping. While this discretization was devised in order to preserve the so-called entropy estimate, we use this to show that the resulting high-dimensional stochastic differential equation (SDE) preserves pathwise and pointwise strict positivity, at least in case of the physically relevant mobility function arising from the no-slip boundary condition. As a consequence, this discretization gives rise to a consistent invariant measure, namely a discretization of the Brownian excursion (up to the volume constraint), and thus features an entropic repulsion. The price to pay over more naive discretizations is that when writing the SDE in Itô's form, which is the basis for the Euler-Mayurama time discretization, a correction term appears. To conclude, we perform various numerical experiments to compare the behavior of our discretization to that of the more naive finite difference discretization of the equation.


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