Characterization of the accuracy of the fast multipole method in particle simulations

FA Cruz Villarroel, LA Barba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The fast multipole method (FMM) is a fast summation algorithm capable of accelerating pairwise interaction calculations, known as N-body problems, from an algorithmic complexity of O(N2) to O(N) for N particles. The algorithm has brought a dramatic increase in the capability of particle simulations in many application areas, such as electrostatics, particle formulations of fluid mechanics, and others. Although the literature on the subject provides theoretical error bounds for the FMM approximation, there are not many reports on the measured errors in a suite of computational experiments that characterize the accuracy of the method in relation with the different parameters available to the user. We have performed such an experimental investigation, and summarized the results of about 1500 calculations using the FMM algorithm, applied to the 2D vortex particle method. In addition to the more standard diagnostic of the maximum error, we supply illustrations of the spatial distribution of the errors, offering visual evidence of all the contributing factors to the overall approximation accuracy: multipole expansion, local expansion, hierarchical spatial decomposition (interaction lists, local domain, far domain). This presentation is a contribution to any researcher wishing to incorporate the FMM acceleration to their application code, as it aids in understanding where accuracy is gained or compromised.
Translated title of the contributionCharacterization of the accuracy of the fast multipole method in particle simulations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1577 - 1604
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering
Volume79, issue 13
Publication statusPublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Wiley


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