Nuclear engineering professor receives national 2020 Lewis F. Moody Award


By Gabrielle Stewart

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Elia Merzari, associate professor of nuclear engineering in the Penn State College of Engineering, has been awarded the 2020 Lewis F. Moody Award by the fluid engineering division (FED) of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He and five co-authors were recognized for their paper on novel heat exchangers for potential use in nuclear reactors, published in the Journal of Fluids Engineering. They were honored in a virtual ceremony at the ASME Fluids Engineering Division Summer Meeting (FEDSM) on July 15.

The award is named in honor of the late Lewis F. Moody, a prominent engineer known for the eponymous Moody chart that predicts flow rate in a circular pipe, which has applications in fluid dynamics. Recipients, who must be ASME members, are awarded for completing an “outstanding original paper useful to the practice of mechanical engineering,” according to the ASME website.

Submissions undergo a rigorous selection process including two committee peer reviews. The process can take up to two years. The paper, “Calculation of Friction Factors and Nusselt Numbers for Twisted Elliptical Tube Heat Exchangers using NEK5000,” was published in 2018. Merzari co-authored the paper during his time as a principal nuclear engineer at Argonne National Laboratory before moving to the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State in 2019.

In the paper, Merzari and his co-authors examined novel twisted tube heat exchangers for potential use in molten salt nuclear reactors. Using high-fidelity, or more realistic, computer simulations of turbulence, the authors predicted the heat transfer and fluid flow behavior of the heat exchangers. The predictions closely matched experimental data, demonstrating that high-fidelity software can be used to investigate and improve complex heat exchanger designs. The researchers also explored the design parameters and layouts of the heat exchangers, pointing out deficiencies in existing correlations and recommending best practices for modeling and simulations of these devices.

“Cooperation between industry and national labs made the paper possible,” Merzari said. “Our paper demonstrates what research should be: a process of collaboration.”

Merzari has contributed to more than 200 publications. He is a postdoctoral fellow of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He has received the Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award, the George Westinghouse Silver Medal, the HPC Innovation Excellence Award, the NURETH-16 Best Paper Award and numerous other accolades.

Victor Coppo, Merzari’s doctoral student, was also honored by FED with the distinction of graduate student scholar. The program provides support for selected graduate students through mentorship, a travel scholarship for presenting their papers at the upcoming FEDSM and opportunities to coordinate FED events and outreach.


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Megan Lakatos

elia merzari headshot

Elia Merzari, associate professor of nuclear engineering and 2020 recipient of the Moody Award. IMAGE: PENN STATE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING