Inserted: 30 nov 2017
Last Updated: 6 aug 2018
Journal: J. Differential Equations
Geometric gradient flows for elastic energies of Willmore type play an important role in mathematics and in many applications. The evolution of elastic curves has been studied in detail both for closed as well as for open curves. Although elastic flows for networks also have many interesting features, they have not been studied so far from the point of view of mathematical analysis. So far it was not even clear what are appropriate boundary conditions at junctions. In this paper we give a well-posedness result for Willmore flow of networks in different geometric settings and hence lay a foundation for further mathematical analysis. A main point in the proof is to check whether different proposed boundary conditions lead to a well posed problem. In this context one has to check the Lopatinskii--Shapiro condition in order to apply the Solonnikov theory for linear parabolic systems in H\"older spaces which is needed in a fixed point argument. We also show that the solution we get is unique in a purely geometric sense.