Hybrid semi-lagrangian finite element-finite difference methods for the Vlasov equation

Wei Guo, Jing Mei Qiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In this paper, we propose a new conservative hybrid finite element-finite difference method for the Vlasov equation. The proposed methodology uses Strang splitting to decouple the nonlinear high dimensional Vlasov equation into two lower dimensional equations, which describe spatial advection and velocity acceleration/deceleration processes respectively. We then propose to use a semi-Lagrangian (SL) discontinuous Galerkin (DG) scheme (or Eulerian Runge-Kutta (RK) DG scheme with local time stepping) for spatial advection, and use a SL finite difference WENO for velocity acceleration/deceleration. Such hybrid method takes the advantage of DG scheme in its compactness and its ability in handling complicated spatial geometry; while takes the advantage of the WENO scheme in its robustness in resolving filamentation solution structures of the Vlasov equation. The proposed highly accurate methodology enjoys great computational efficiency, as it allows one to use relatively coarse phase space mesh due to the high order nature of the scheme. At the same time, the time step can be taken to be extra large in the SL framework. The quality of the proposed method is demonstrated via basic test problems, such as linear advection and rigid body rotation, and classical plasma problems, such as Landau damping and the two stream instability. Although we only tested 1D1V examples, the proposed method has the potential to be extended to problems with high spatial dimensions and complicated geometry. This constitutes our future research work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-132
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Discontinuous galerkin method
  • Hybrid method
  • Landau damping
  • Semi-lagrangian method
  • Two stream instability
  • Vlasov equation
  • WENO scheme


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