Approximate momentum conservation for spatial semidiscretizations of semilinear wave equations

Marcel Oliver, Matthew West, Claudia Wulff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We prove that a standard second order finite difference uniform space discretization of the semilinear wave equation with periodic boundary conditions, analytic nonlinearity, and analytic initial data conserves momentum up to an error which is exponentially small in the stepsize. Our estimates are valid for as long as the trajectories of the full semilinear wave equation remain real analytic. The method of proof is that of backward error analysis, whereby we construct a modified equation which is itself Lagrangian and translation invariant, and therefore also conserves momentum. This modified equation interpolates the semidiscrete system for all time, and we prove that it remains exponentially close to the trigonometric interpolation of the semidiscrete system. These properties directly imply approximate momentum conservation for the semidiscrete system. We also consider discretizations that are not variational as well as discretizations on non-uniform grids. Through numerical example as well as arguments from geometric mechanics and perturbation theory we show that such methods generically do not approximately preserve momentum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-535
Number of pages43
JournalNumerische Mathematik
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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