Recent research has identified Adini’s rectangular element as an efficient higher order element for solving second order elliptic partial differential equations such as Poisson’s equation, which governs the steady state heat conduction problem. This type of element includes both the primary field variable and its spatial derivatives as nodal degrees of freedom. Compared to the conventional cubic elements of the Serendipity and Lagrange families, Adini’s element includes the minimum number of nodes per element and has the advantage that the nodal values of the spatial derivatives of the temperature field are directly retrieved from the FEM solution. As a result, the differentiation and averaging procedures that are typically used to obtain the nodal values of the temperature gradients are avoided.

In this paper a generalized version of Adini’s element for solving two-dimensional steady state heat transfer problems in non-rectangular geometries is presented. Also, the traditional finite element formulation is modified to allow the application of essential boundary conditions without having to constrain the nodal values of the tangential derivative of the temperature. The resulting higher order element and modified FEM formulation are used to solve an example problem and the accuracy of the solution is compared with solutions obtained using the traditional linear, quadratic, and cubic Serendipity elements to show the efficiency, in terms of accuracy per number of degrees of freedom, of the proposed approach for finding the nodal values of the temperature gradients, which are required to compute the nodal values of the heat flux vector.

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