A Finite Difference Method for Dispersive Linear Waves with Applications to Simulating Microwave Pulses in Water

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The EPd method, a finite difference method for highly dispersive linear wave equations, is introduced and analyzed. Motivated by the problem of simulating the propagation of microwave pulses through water, the method attempts to relieve the computational burden of resolving fast processes, such as dipole relaxation or oscillation, occurring in a material with dynamic structure. This method, based on a novel differencing scheme for the time step, is considered primarily for problems in one spatial dimension with constant coefficients. It is defined in terms of the solution of an initial value problem for a system of ordinary differential equations that, in an implementation of the method, need be solved only once in a preprocessing step. For certain wave equations of interest (nondispersive systems, the telegrapher's equation, and the Debye model for dielectric media) explicit formulas for the method are presented. The dispersion relation of the method exhibits a high degree of low-wavenumber asymptotic agreement with the dispersion relation of the model to which it is applied. Comparisons with a finite difference time-domain approach and an approach based on Strang splitting demonstrate the potential of the method to substantially reduce the cost of simulating linear waves in dispersive materials. A generalization of the EPd method for problems with variable coefficients appears to retain many of the advantages seen for constant coefficients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-226
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Debye media
  • Dispersion relation
  • Dispersive linear waves
  • Electromagnetics waves
  • FDTD
  • Finite difference method
  • Stiff hyperbolic systems


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