An efficient and accurate method for modeling nonlinear fractional viscoelastic biomaterials

Will Zhang, Adela Capilnasiu, Gerhard Sommer, Gerhard A. Holzapfel, David A. Nordsletten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Computational biomechanics plays an important role in biomedical engineering: using modeling to understand pathophysiology, treatment and device design. While experimental evidence indicates that the mechanical response of most tissues is viscoelastic, current biomechanical models in the computational community often assume hyperelastic material models. Fractional viscoelastic constitutive models have been successfully used in literature to capture viscoelastic material response; however, the translation of these models into computational platforms remains limited. Many experimentally derived viscoelastic constitutive models are not suitable for three-dimensional simulations. Furthermore, the use of fractional derivatives can be computationally prohibitive, with a number of current numerical approximations having a computational cost that is O(N_T^2) and a storage cost that is O(N_T) (N_T denotes the number of time steps). In this paper, we present a novel numerical approximation to the Caputo derivative which exploits a recurrence relation similar to those used to discretize classic temporal derivatives, giving a computational cost that is O(N_T) and a storage cost that is fixed over time. The approximation is optimized for numerical applications, and an error estimate is presented to demonstrate the efficacy of the method. The method, integrated into a finite element solid mechanics framework, is shown to be unconditionally stable in the linear viscoelastic case. It was then integrated into a computational biomechanical framework, with several numerical examples verifying the accuracy and computational efficiency of the method, including in an analytic test, in an analytic fractional differential equation, as well as in a computational biomechanical model problem.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112834
Early online date24 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020


  • Caputo derivative
  • Computational biomechanics
  • Large deformation
  • Solid mechanics
  • Viscoelasticity


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