Computational electrodynamics in material media with constraint-preservation, multidimensional Riemann solvers and sub-cell resolution – Part I, second-order FVTD schemes

Dinshaw S. Balsara*, Allen Taflove, Sudip Garain, Gino Montecinos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


While classic finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) solutions of Maxwell's equations have served the computational electrodynamics (CED) community very well, formulations based on Godunov methodology have begun to show advantages. We argue that the formulations presented so far are such that FDTD schemes and Godunov-based schemes each have their own unique advantages. However, there is currently not a single formulation that systematically integrates the strengths of both these major strains of development. While an early glimpse of such a formulation was offered in Balsara et al. [16], that paper focused on electrodynamics in plasma. Here, we present a synthesis that integrates the strengths of both FDTD and Godunov-based schemes into a robust single formulation for CED in material media. Three advances make this synthesis possible. First, from the FDTD method, we retain (but somewhat modify) a spatial staggering strategy for the primal variables. This provides a beneficial constraint preservation for the electric displacement and magnetic induction vector fields via reconstruction methods that were initially developed in some of the first author's papers for numerical magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). Second, from the Godunov method, we retain the idea of upwinding, except that this idea, too, has to be significantly modified to use the multi-dimensionally upwinded Riemann solvers developed by the first author. Third, we draw upon recent advances in arbitrary derivatives in space and time (ADER) time-stepping by the first author and his colleagues. We use the ADER predictor step to endow our method with sub-cell resolving capabilities so that the method can be stiffly stable and resolve significant sub-cell variation in the material properties within a zone. Overall, in this paper, we report a new scheme for numerically solving Maxwell's equations in material media, with special attention paid to a second-order-accurate formulation. Several numerical examples are presented to show that the proposed technique works. Because of its sub-cell resolving ability, the new method retains second-order accuracy even when material permeability and permittivity vary by an order-of-magnitude over just one or two zones. Furthermore, because the new method is also unconditionally stable in the presence of stiff source terms (i.e., in problems involving giant conductivity variations), it can handle several orders-of-magnitude variation in material conductivity over just one or two zones without any reduction of the time–step. Consequently, the CFL depends only on the propagation speed of light in the medium being studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-635
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - Nov 15 2017


  • ADER
  • Computational electrodynamics
  • FVTD
  • Maxwell's equations
  • Riemann solvers
  • WENO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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