# Crank-Nicholson for diffusion-advection vs diffusion equation

Let's consider the following 1D diffusion equation:

$$\frac{\partial u}{\partial t} = xk \frac{\partial}{\partial x}(\frac{1}{x}\frac{\partial u}{\partial x})$$

where we assume that the diffusion coefficient $$k$$ is constant.

In order to discretize this equation, let us define the following:

$$x_i = 1 + i\Delta x, \forall i=0,1,...,I \\ t_n = n\Delta t, \forall n=0,1,...,N \\ r = \frac{k\Delta t}{2 \Delta x^2} \\ s = \frac{k\Delta t}{4 \Delta x}$$

where $$\Delta t$$ and $$\Delta x$$ are the time step and the spacing, respectively.

Let's discretize the diffusion equation by means of the Crank-Nicholson method:

$$u_i^{n+1}-u_i^n = r x_i [ \frac{u_{i+1}^n - u_i^n}{x_{i+\frac{1}{2}}} - \frac{u_i^n - u_{i-1}^n}{x_{i-\frac{1}{2}}}] + r x_i [ \frac{u_{i+1}^{n+1} - u_i^{n+1}}{x_{i+\frac{1}{2}}} - \frac{u_i^{n+1} - u_{i-1}^{n+1}}{x_{i-\frac{1}{2}}}]$$

where upper indexes refer to time, lower indexes refer to space.

So far, so good. Now, using the product rule, the initial diffusion equation can be rewritten as:

$$\frac{\partial u}{\partial t} = k \frac{\partial^2 u}{\partial x^2} - \frac{k}{x}\frac{\partial u}{\partial x}$$

The latter equation is now a diffusion-advection equation, but should be equivalent to the original diffusion equation.

Let us discretize the latter equation by means of the Crank-Nicholson method:

$$u_i^{n+1}-u_i^n = r [ u_{i+1}^n - 2 u_i^n + u_{i-1}^n ] - \frac{s}{x_i} [ u_{i+1}^n - u_{i-1}^n] + r [ u_{i+1}^{n+1} - 2 u_i^{n+1} + u_{i-1}^{n+1}] - \frac{s}{x_i} [u_{i+1}^{n+1} - u_{i-1}^{n+1}]$$

Those 2 discretizations are different. So, here is my question:

Which discretization should I choose?

• You really do have a variable coefficient heat equation as written so I am not surprised that you are seeing different discretizations as is common for variable coefficient problems. Looking at the two discretizations I would pick the latter but it may not be consistent with the original equation. Nov 28 '19 at 16:43
• @KyleMandli I'd take the latter as well, as I've seen C-N many times on diffusion-advection equations. The term "Variable coefficient heat equation" comes from the x multiplier in the rhs?
– mfnx
Nov 28 '19 at 16:49
• @KyleMandli, yes the PDEs are identical, but that doesn't imply that their discrete forms are. Nov 29 '19 at 5:49
• @Dr.LutzLehmann When you say I will reduce the order of the method, do you refer to the first or the second discretization?
– mfnx
Nov 29 '19 at 12:28
• Yes, that makes more sense. Then the singularity is well away from the integration interval and the midpoint is the appropriate approximation everywhere. Nov 29 '19 at 13:07

Take the first expression and start to reduce the $$x$$ values to $$x_i$$, \begin{align} \frac{u_{i+1}^n - u_i^n}{x_{i+\frac{1}{2}}} - \frac{u_i^n - u_{i-1}^n}{x_{i-\frac{1}{2}}} &= \frac{(x_i-\frac12Δx)(u_{i+1}^n - u_i^n) - (x_i+\frac12Δx)(u_i^n - u_{i-1}^n)}{x_{i-\frac{1}{2}}x_{i+\frac{1}{2}}} \\ &=\frac{x_i}{x_i^2-\frac14Δx^2}(u_{i+1}^n - 2u_i^n + u_{i-1}^n) \\&\qquad - \frac{Δx}{2(x_i^2-\frac14Δx^2)}(u_{i+1}^n - u_{i-1}^n) \end{align} After multiplying with $$rx_i$$ you find that the difference to the second formula are only in terms of size $$O(Δx^2)$$, that is, within the error order of the method.