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Jacopo Buongiorno

Jacopo Buongiorno

Professor and Associate Department Head
Nuclear Science and Engineering
Director, Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES)


PhD, Nuclear Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000.
B.S., Nuclear Engineering, Polytechnic of Milan, 1996.

Research Interests

Multi-phase flow and heat transfer; advanced reactor design; reactor thermal-hydraulics and safety. My current research is focused in five areas.

Nanofluids for Nuclear Applications

By seeding the nuclear reactor coolant with nanoparticles it is possible to enhance the rate at which energy is removed from the nuclear fuel under normal and accident conditions, thus improving the reactor's economic and safety performance. The resulting particle-fluid system is called a 'nanofluid'. Watch the video

Fundamentals of Boiling

Cutting edge experimental techniques are used to study the physics of two-phase flow and heat transfer phenomena, in particular nucleate boiling, Critical Heat Flux (CHF) and quenching heat transfer. The group has optimized the use of synchronized infra-red thermography, high-speed video and Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) to obtain detailed data for temperature distribution on the boiling surface, bubble departure diameter and frequency, growth and wait times, nucleation site density, near-wall void fraction, etc.. These data can be used to inform and validate models of boiling heat transfer, CHF and quenching, including multi-phase Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), and specifically Interface Tracking Methods (ITM). With such methods the geometry of the vapor-liquid interface is not assumed (e.g., bullet-shaped bubbles), but actually calculated from 'first principles'. Watch the video

Advanced Uncertainty Quantification (UQ) methods for nuclear safety and CFD codes

The objective of this work is to reduce the number of code runs to be performed to get to a target confidence interval for the figure of merit (i.e. thermal margin). The methodology is as follows: i) reduce the number of important parameters using a Quantitative Phenomena Identification and Ranking Table (QPIRT); this is an "objective" PIRT as seen by the code, not based on subjective expert judgment, ii) train a surrogate model or a polynomial chaos expansion with a limited number of runs, and iii) quantify the uncertainty using the surrogate model or the polynomial chaos expansion. This approach can be significantly more efficient than traditional brute-force Monte Carlo sampling.

Surface effects on boiling heat transfer

It is well known that boiling and quenching heat transfer depends strongly on the morphology and composition of the solid surface through which the heat transfer occurs. The relevant surface features are roughness, wettability (hydrophilicity), porosity, presence of cavities, size and shape of cavities, and thermo-physical properties of the surface material. My work has been exploring the separate effects of surface roughness, wettability and porosity on both Critical Heat Flux (CHF) and quenching heat transfer (Leidenfrost point temperature). This is made possible by the use of surfaces with engineered features (e.g. posts, coatings, nanoparticle layers) at the micro- and nano-scale, which enabled varying the surface roughness, wettability and porosity precisely and independently from each other. In fabricating the test surfaces, I work with Profs. Michael Rubner and Robert Cohen in DMSE and ChemE, respectively.

The offshore floating nuclear power plant

We are developing an offshore floating nuclear power plant concept that achieves unprecedented levels of safety. It does so through innovative design features that ensure indefinite cooling of the nuclear fuel (thus reducing the likelihood of accidents with fuel damage and radionuclide release), and eliminate the need for land evacuation, should such an accident actually occur. Both features are responsive to the new safety imperatives of a post-Fukushima world. This is a plant that can be entirely built (and decommissioned) as a floating rig in a shipyard, floated to the operating site (within 8–15 km of the coast), anchored in relatively deep water (i.e., ~100 m), and connected to the grid via an underwater transmission line. The economic potential is high, owing to efficient shipyard construction and decommissioning, and elimination of concrete structures from the plant design. wiki


U.S. Application No.: 61/706401, Filing Date: September 27, 2012, M.I.T. Case No. 15825K, MIT Docket No.: 15825.113297, "Hydrophobic Porous Coatings for Creation of Stable Vapor Films to Reduce Drag", by Robert Cohen, Michael Rubner, Jacopo Buongiorno, Harrison O'Hanley and Thomas McKrell

"In-situ treatment of metallic surfaces", Provisional patent, Serial Number 61/153,411. United States Patent and TM Office. Filing date 18 February 2009.

"Nanoparticle Thin-Film Coatings for Enhancement of Boiling Heat Transfer", US Patent No. US 2010/0224638 A1, United States Patent and TM Office. Filed 10 February 2010.

"Concentrated solar power system", International Publication No. WO 2011/035232 March 24, 2011.

Recent Publications

  1. D. Chatzikyriakou, J. Buongiorno, D. Caviezel, D. Lakehal, “DNS and LES of Turbulent Flow in a Closed Channel Featuring a Pattern of Hemispherical Roughness Elements”, Int. J. Heat Fluid Flow, 53, 29–43, 2015.
  2. J. Buongiorno, D. G. Cahill, C. H. Hidrovo, S. Moghaddam, A. J. Schmidt, L. Shi, “Micro- and Nanoscale Measurement Methods for Phase Change Heat Transfer on Planar and Structured Surfaces”, Nanoscale and Microscale Thermophysical Engineering, 18(3), 270-–287, 2014.
  3. R. Azizian, E. Doroodchi, T. McKrell, J. Buongiorno, L.W. Hu, B. Moghtaderi, “Effect of Magnetic Field on Laminar Convective Heat Transfer of Magnetite Nanofluids”, Int. J. Heat Mass Transfer, 68, 94–109, 2014.
  4. J. Buongiorno, “Can Corrosion and CRUD actually Improve Safety Margins in LWRs?”, Annals of Nuclear Energy, Vol. 63, Pages 9–21, January 2014.
  5. J. Fricano, J. Buongiorno, “Development and Application of an Integrated Fuel Performance and Sub-Channel Model for Analysis of Sodium Fast Reactors”, Nuclear Technology, Vol. 184, 63–77, 2013.
  6. H. Kim, Y. Park, J. Buongiorno, “Measurement of Wetted Area Fraction in Subcooled Pool Boiling of Water Using Infrared Thermography”, Nucl. Eng. Des., 264, 103–110, 2013.
  7. H. O’Hanley, J. Buongiorno, T. McKrell, L. W. Hu, M. Rubner, R. Cohen, “Separate Effects of Surface Roughness, Wettability and Porosity on the Boiling Critical Heat Flux”, Applied Physics Letters, 103, 024102, 2013.
  8. G. DeWitt, T. McKrell, J. Buongiorno, L.W. Hu, R.J. Park, “Experimental Study of Critical Heat Flux with Alumina-water Nanofluids in Downward-Facing Channels for In-Vessel Retention Applications”, Nuclear Energy Technology, Vol. 45, No. 3, 1–12, 2013.
  9. V. I. Sharma, J. Buongiorno, T. J. McKrell, L.W. Hu, “Experimental Study of Transient Critical Heat Flux During Boiling of Water-Based Nanofluids With Zinc-Oxide Nanoparticles”, Int. J. Heat Mass Transfer, 61, 425–431, 2013.
  10. X. Duan, B. Phillips, T. McKrell, J. Buongiorno, “Synchronized High-Speed Video, Infrared Thermometry and PIV Data for Validation of Interface-Tracking Simulations of Nucleate Boiling Phenomena”, Exp. Heat Transfer, 26:169–197, 2013.

all publications (pdf)


22.06 Engineering of Nuclear Systems
2.005 Thermal-Fluids Engineering I
22.312 Engineering of Nuclear Reactors
22.313J Thermal Hydraulics in Power Technology


  • Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching, School of Engineering, 2006, 2011 and 2015.
  • MacVicar Faculty Fellow for exemplary and sustained contributions to the teaching and education of undergraduates at MIT, March 2014
  • Best Paper Award at the 9th International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Thermal-Hydraulics, Operation and Safety (NUTHOS-9) in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on September 9-13, 2012 (G. DeWitt, T. McKrell, J. Buongiorno, L.W. Hu and R. J. Park, "Experimental Study of Critical Heat Flux with Alumina-water Nanofluids in Downward-Facing Channels for In-Vessel Retention Applications”, Paper N9P0148).
  • Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award, American Nuclear Society, 2011.
  • ASME Heat Transfer Division Best Paper, 2008.
  • Best Paper Award at the 1st ASME Micro/Nanoscale Heat Transfer International Conference, Tainan, Taiwan, January 6-9, 2008.
  • Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, School of Engineering, 2007.
  • Mark Mills Award for best U.S. PhD Thesis in Nuclear Engineering, American Nuclear Society, 2001

Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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