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Divergence-free (div-free) and curl-free vector fields are pervasive in many areas of science and engineering, from fluid dynamics to electromagnetism. A common problem that arises in applications is that of constructing smooth approximants to these vector fields and/or their potentials based only on discrete samples. Additionally, it is often necessary that the vector approximants preserve the div-free or curl-free properties of the field to maintain certain physical constraints. Div/curl-free radial basis functions (RBFs) are a particularly good choice for this application as they are meshfree and analytically satisfy the div-free or curl-free property. However, this method can be computationally expensive due to its global nature. In this paper, we develop a technique for bypassing this issue that combines div/curl-free RBFs in a partition of unity framework, where one solves for local approximants over subsets of the global samples and then blends them together to form a div-free or curl-free global approximant. The method is applicable to div/curl-free vector fields in ℝ2 and tangential fields on two-dimensional surfaces, such as the sphere, and the curl-free method can be generalized to vector fields in ℝd. The method also produces an approximant for the scalar potential of the underlying sampled field. We present error estimates and demonstrate the effectiveness of the method on several test problems.

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This document was originally published in SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing by Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Copyright restrictions may apply.

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