Source files:

Description of the non-linear constitutive heat transfer law

The thermal material is described by the following non linear Fourier Law:

\[ \mathbf{j}=-k\left(T\right)\,\mathbf{\nabla} T \]

where \(\mathbf{j}\) is the heat flux and \(\mathbf{\nabla} T\) is the temperature gradient.

Expression of the thermal conductivity

The thermal conductivity is assumed to be given by:

\[ k\left(T\right)={\displaystyle \frac{\displaystyle 1}{\displaystyle A+B\,T}} \]

This expression accounts for the phononic contribution to the thermal conductivity.


As discussed below, the consistent linearisation of the heat transfer equilibrium requires to compute:

MFront’ implementation

Choice of the the domain specific language

Every MFront file is handled by a domain specific language (DSL), which aims at providing the most suitable abstraction for a particular choice of behaviour and integration algorithm. See mfront mfront --list-dsl for a list of the available DSLs.

The name of DSL’s handling generic behaviours ends with GenericBehaviour. The first part of a DSL’s name is related to the integration algorithm used.

In the case of this non linear transfer behaviour, the heat flux is explicitly computed from the temperature and the temperature gradient. The DefaultGenericBehaviour is the most suitable choice:

@DSL DefaultGenericBehaviour;

Some metadata

The following lines define the name of the behaviour, the name of the author and the date of its writing:

@Behaviour StationaryHeatTransfer;
@Author Thomas Helfer;
@Date 15/02/2019;

Gradients and fluxes

Generic behaviours relate pairs of gradients and fluxes. Gradients and fluxes are declared independently but the first declared gradient is assumed to be conjugated with the first declared fluxes and so on…

The temperature gradient is declared as follows (note that Unicode characters are supported):

@Gradient TemperatureGradient ∇T;

Note that we associated to ∇T the glossary name TemperatureGradient. This is helpful for the calling code.

After this declaration, the following variables will be defined:

The heat flux is then declared as follows:

@Flux HeatFlux j;

In the following code blocks, j will be the heat flux at the end of the time step.

Tangent operator blocks

By default, the derivatives of the gradients with respect to the fluxes are declared. Thus the variable ∂j∕∂Δ∇T is automatically declared.

However, as discussed in the next section, the consistent linearisation of the thermal equilibrium requires to return the derivate of the heat flux with respect to the increment of the temperature (or equivalently with respect to the temperature at the end of the time step).

@AdditionalTangentOperatorBlock ∂j∕∂ΔT;


The A and B coefficients that appears in the definition of the thermal conductivity are declared as parameters:

@Parameter real A = 0.0375;
@Parameter real B = 2.165e-4;

Parameters are stored globally and can be modified from the calling solver or from python in the case of the coupling with FEniCS discussed below.

Local variable

A local variable is accessible in each code blocks.

Here, we declare the thermal conductivity k as a local variable in order to be able to compute its value during the behaviour integration and to reuse this value when computing the tangent operator.

@LocalVariable thermalconductivity k;

Integration of the behaviour

The behaviour integration is straightforward: one starts to compute the temperature at the end of the time step, then we compute the thermal conductivity (at the end of the time step) and the heat flux using the temperature gradient (at the end of the time step).

  // temperature at the end of the time step
  const auto T_ = T + ΔT;
  // thermal conductivity
  k = 1 / (A + B ⋅ T_);
  // heat flux
  j = -k ⋅ (∇T + Δ∇T);
} // end of @Integrator

Tangent operator

The computation of the tangent operator blocks is equally simple:

@TangentOperator {
  ∂j∕∂Δ∇T = -k ⋅ tmatrix<N, N, real>::Id();
  ∂j∕∂ΔT  =  B ⋅ k ⋅ k ⋅ (∇T + Δ∇T);
} // end of @TangentOperator 

FEniCS implementation

We consider a rectanglar domain with imposed temperatures Tl (resp. Tr) on the left (resp. right) boundaries. We want to solve for the temperature field T inside the domain using a \(P^1\)-interpolation. We initialize the temperature at value Tl throughout the domain.

%matplotlib notebook
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from dolfin import *
import mgis.fenics as mf

length = 30e-3
width = 5.4e-3
mesh = RectangleMesh(Point(0., 0.), Point(length, width), 100, 10)

V = FunctionSpace(mesh, "CG", 1)
T = Function(V, name="Temperature")

def left(x, on_boundary):
    return near(x[0], 0) and on_boundary
def right(x, on_boundary):
    return near(x[0], length) and on_boundary

Tl = 300
Tr = 800

bc = [DirichletBC(V, Constant(Tl), left),
      DirichletBC(V, Constant(Tr), right)]

Loading the material behaviour

We use the MFrontNonlinearMaterial class for describing the material behaviour. The first argument corresponds to the path where material librairies have been compiled, the second correspond to the name of the behaviour (declared with @Behaviour). Finally, the modelling hypothesis is specified (default behaviour is "3d").

material = mf.MFrontNonlinearMaterial("./src/",

The MFront behaviour declares the field "TemperatureGradient" as a Gradient variable, with its associated Flux called "HeatFlux". We can check that the material object retrieves MFront’s gradient and flux names, as well as the different tangent operator blocks which have been defined, namely dj_ddgT and dj_ddT in the present case:

print(["d{}_d{}".format(*t) for t in material.get_tangent_block_names()])
['dHeatFlux_dTemperatureGradient', 'dHeatFlux_dTemperature']

Non-linear problem definition

When defining the non-linear problem, we will specify the boundary conditions and the requested quadrature degree which will control the number of quadrature points used in each cell to compute the non-linear constitutive law. Here, we specify a quadrature of degree 2 (i.e. 3 Gauss points for a triangular element).

problem = mf.MFrontNonlinearProblem(T, material, quadrature_degree=2, bcs=bc)

Variable registration

The MFront behaviour implicitly declares the temperature as an external state variable called "Temperature". We must therefore associate this external state variable to a known mechanical field. This can be achieved explicitly using the register_external_state_variable method. In the present case, this can be done automatically since the name of the unknown temperature field matches the TFEL Glossary name "Temperature" which is a predefined external state variable. In this case, the following message will be printed:

Automatic registration of 'Temperature' as an external state variable.

For problems in which the temperature only acts as a parameter (no jacobian blocks with respect to the temperature), the temperature can be automatically registered as a constant value (\(293.15 \text{ K}\) by default) or to any other (dolfin.Constant, float or dolfin.Function) value using the register_external_state_variable method.

In the FEniCS interface, we instantiate the main mechanical unknown, here the temperature field T which has to be named "Temperature" in order to match MFront’s predefined name. Using another name than this will later result in an error saying:

ValueError: 'Temperature' could not be associated with a registered gradient or a known state variable.

Finally, we need to associate to MFront gradient object the corresponding UFL expression as a function of the unknown field T. To do so, we use the register_gradient method linking MFront "TemperatureGradient" object to the UFL expression grad(T).

problem.register_gradient("TemperatureGradient", grad(T))

Similarly to the case of external state variables, common gradient expressions for some TFEL Glossary names have been already predefined which avoid calling explicitly the register_gradient method. Predefined expressions can be obtained from:

'TFEL gradient name'   (Available hypotheses)
'Strain'               ('Tridimensional', 'PlaneStrain', 'Axisymmetrical')
'TemperatureGradient'  ('Tridimensional', 'PlaneStrain', 'Axisymmetrical')
'DeformationGradient'  ('Tridimensional', 'PlaneStrain', 'Axisymmetrical')

We can see that the name "Temperature Gradient" is in fact a predefined gradient. Omitting calling the register_gradient method will in this case print the following message upon calling solve:

Automatic registration of 'TemperatureGradient' as grad(Temperature).

meaning that a predefined gradient name has been found and registered as the UFL expression \(\nabla T\). > Note that automatic registration is not supported when using mixed function spaces.

Problem resolution

No external loading has been specified so that the residual form is automatically defined as: \[\begin{equation} F(\widehat{T}) = \int_\Omega \mathbf{j}\cdot \nabla \widehat{T} \text{dx} = 0 \quad \forall \widehat{T} \end{equation}\]

From the two tangent operator blocks dj_ddgT and dj_ddT, it will automatically be deduced that the heat flux \(\mathbf{j}\) is a function of both the temperature gradient \(\mathbf{g}=\nabla T\) and the temperature itself i.e. \(\mathbf{j}=\mathbf{j}(\mathbf{g}, T)\). The following tangent bilinear form will therefore be used when solving the above non-linear problem:

\[\begin{equation} a_\text{tangent}(\widehat{T},T^*) = \int_{\Omega} \nabla \widehat{T}\cdot\left(\dfrac{\partial \mathbf{j}}{\partial \mathbf{g}}\cdot \nabla T^*+\dfrac{\partial \mathbf{j}}{\partial T}\cdot T^*\right) \text{dx} \end{equation}\]

We finally solve the non-linear problem using a default Newton non-linear solver. The solve method returns the number of Newton iterations (4 in the present case) and converged status .

Automatic registration of 'Temperature' as an external state variable.

(4, True)

We finally check that the thermal conductivity coefficient \(k\), computed from the ratio between the horizontal heat flux and temperature gradient matches the temperature-dependent expressions implemented in the MFront behaviour.

j = problem.fluxes["HeatFlux"].function
g = problem.gradients["TemperatureGradient"].function
k_gauss = -j.vector().get_local()[::2]/g.vector().get_local()[::2]
T_gauss = problem.state_variables["external"]["Temperature"].function.vector().get_local()
A = material.get_parameter("A");
B = material.get_parameter("B");
k_ref = 1/(A + B*T_gauss)
plt.plot(T_gauss, k_gauss, 'o', label="FE")
plt.plot(T_gauss, k_ref, '.', label="ref")
plt.xlabel(r"Temperature $T\: (K)$")
plt.ylabel(r"Thermal conductivity $k\: (W.m^{-1}.K^{-1})$")
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