Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Alan Demlow


Problems involving the solution of partial differential equations over surfaces appear in many engineering and scientific applications. Some of those applications include crystal growth, fluid mechanics and computer graphics. Many times analytic solutions to such problems are not available. Numerical algorithms, such as Finite Element Methods, are used in practice to find approximate solutions in those cases.

In this work we present L2 and pointwise a posteriori error estimates for Adaptive Surface Finite Elements solving the Laplace-Beltrami equation −△Γ u = f . The two sources of errors for Surface Finite Elements are a Galerkin error, and a geometric error that comes from replacing the original surface by a computational mesh. A posteriori error estimates on flat domains only have a Galerkin component. We use residual type error estimators to measure the Galerkin error. The geometric component of our error estimate becomes zero if we consider flat domains, but otherwise has the same order as the residual one. This is different from the available energy norm based error estimates on surfaces, where the importance of the geometric components diminishes asymptotically as the mesh is refined. We use our results to implement an Adaptive Surface Finite Element Method.

An important tool for proving a posteriori error bounds for non smooth functions is the Scott-Zhang interpolant. A refined version of a standard Scott-Zhang interpolation bound is also proved during our analysis. This local version only requires the interpolated function to be in a Sobolev space defined over an element T instead of an element patch containing T.

In the last section we extend our elliptic results to get estimates for the surface heat equation ut − △Γ u = f using the elliptic reconstruction technique.