Relaxation Method for Electrostatic Problems

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We use the relaxation method to approximate solutions of Laplace's equation. Starting with a grid of points with fixed values at the boundaries, the value of the solution at a point is the mean of its four neighbors. (This can be seen with a Taylor series expansion around that point.)

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This implementation starts with random and unsorted values in a square plate with a square hole in the center; the mean of the neighbors at each point is calculated repeatedly. Because of symmetry, only an eighth of the plate needs to be calculated; you can see either a quarter or the full plate. With increasing steps the values converge to a smooth surface.

The solution is equivalent for soap bubbles and elastic membranes that minimize the energy yielding a minimal surface. Relaxation is also related to diffusion phenomena.

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Contributed by: Enrique Zeleny (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA


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