Brittle Solvers: Lessons and insights into effective solvers for visco-plasticity in geodynamics

Monday, 15 December 2014
Marc W Spiegelman, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, United States, Dave May, ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland and Cian R Wilson, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States
Plasticity/Fracture and rock failure are essential ingredients in geodynamic models as terrestrial rocks do not possess an infinite yield strength. Numerous physical mechanisms have been proposed to limit the strength of rocks, including low temperature plasticity and brittle fracture. While ductile and creep behavior of rocks at depth is largely accepted, the constitutive relations associated with brittle failure, or shear localisation, are more controversial. Nevertheless, there are really only a few macroscopic constitutive laws for visco-plasticity that are regularly used in geodynamics models. Independent of derivation, all of these can be cast as simple effective viscosities which act as stress limiters with different choices for yield surfaces; the most common being a von Mises (constant yield stress) or Drucker-Prager (pressure dependent yield-stress) criterion. The choice of plasticity model, however, can have significant consequences for the degree of non-linearity in a problem and the choice and efficiency of non-linear solvers.

Here we describe a series of simplified 2 and 3-D model problems to elucidate several issues associated with obtaining accurate description and solution of visco-plastic problems. We demonstrate that
1) Picard/Successive substitution schemes for solution of the non-linear problems can often stall at large values of the non-linear residual, thus producing spurious solutions
2) Combined Picard/Newton schemes can be effective for a range of plasticity models, however, they can produce serious convergence problems for strongly pressure dependent plasticity models such as Drucker-Prager.
3) Nevertheless, full Drucker-Prager may not be the plasticity model of choice for strong materials as the dynamic pressures produced in these layers can develop pathological behavior with Drucker-Prager, leading to stress strengthening rather than stress weakening behavior.
4) In general, for any incompressible Stoke's problem, it is highly advisable to look at the predicted dynamic pressure fields, particularly if they are being fed back into the rheology.

Given a range of well described model problems, we discuss broader issues of what, if any, are appropriate plasticity models and under what circumstances we can expect to obtain accurate solutions from such formulations.