Argonne National Laboratory

Elia Merzari

By Mary CaseyJuly 12, 2016

Elia Merzari is a principal nuclear engineer in the Nuclear Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory. Merzari received a bachelor's degree in engineering and a master's degree in nuclear engineering from Politecnico di Milano and holds a doctorate from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Merzari joined Argonne as a postdoctoral fellow in 2009 and was hired as a full-time staff member in 2010. He was the recipient of the 2014 American Nuclear Society Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award.

What kind of work do you do at Argonne?

My research relies on predictive, large-scale simulations of turbulence to improve our physical understanding of complex flows. Ultimately, this will help us design safer and more efficient energy systems, including nuclear reactors. I strive to develop numerical methods and tools that bridge the gap between supercomputing-based simulation and real-world engineering practice.

How does your work support the lab's larger scientific mission?

The work I do with modeling and simulation has the potential to make nuclear reactors safer, more efficient and economically more competitive. Nuclear energy has the potential to address the energy needs of the country and finding sustainable energy solutions to meet the nation's needs is part of Argonne's mission.

What attracted you to work at Argonne?

Argonne's long history of work in the nuclear energy area attracted me and I was aware of the simulation and modeling work being done here. I wanted the synergy of the supercomputer resources and the interesting modeling work.

What are the things you like most about your work?

Working with a large team, including people from multiple divisions and laboratories and having colleagues from different backgrounds and specialties — I find that very engaging. Also, the cutting-edge work we are doing with supercomputers, they allow us to answer questions that would be impossible without the resources and equipment that are available at Argonne.

Can you give an example of one of your projects?

The most recent, and one I am the lead on, is the modeling and simulation of flow-induced vibration in advanced steam generators, which is a very important component of small modular reactors. We are working with industry to predict steam generator performance, making it possible to explore new designs without relying on heuristic assumptions and reducing our reliance on expensive mockup experiments. This has the potential to ultimately enhance safety while reducing costs and improving efficiency.

What do you enjoy most about the environment at Argonne?

I like the intellectual freedom and the good professional relationships with other employees. I feel at home in my division and I really like working with other divisions like the Mathematics and Computer Science Division, with which I have a joint appointment.

Also, I have been participating in tutorials, workshops and other professional development opportunities. I have attended courses on two-phase flow and was nominated for the National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering symposium, which I attended.

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