A volume-conserving balanced-force level set method on unstructured meshes using a control volume finite element formulation

Stephen Lin, Jinhui Yan, Dmitriy Kats, Gregory J. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The level set method for modeling multi-fluid interfaces gives a simple approach for the simulation of multiphase flow problems. However, many of the components of this method, such as the redistancing of the level set function and discretization of the singular surface tension force, become more difficult on unstructured meshes in a control volume framework; furthermore, these operations are shown to lead to errors in conservation of mass of the individual phases, as well as unphysical currents near the interface. This paper presents a novel formulation for the level set method combined with a balanced-force algorithm using a control volume finite element method (CVFEM) for unstructured grids. A diffuse interface description is used, allowing a straightforward inclusion of surface tension forces; we show that by consistently evaluating the pressure gradient and surface tension, we are able to discretely balance these two forces and suppress any parasitic currents given a prescribed curvature. By converting the redistancing equation to a form that is suitable for CVFEM and enforcing a constraint directly linked with the phase fraction in each cell, we are able conserve mass and preserve the shape of the interface to a high degree of accuracy in multiphase flow problems with high density and viscosity ratios. The accuracy of the of our proposed method is assessed by comparing with benchmark results from the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-142
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Balanced force
  • Control volume finite element method
  • Level set method
  • Unstructured grid

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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