NSE - Nuclear Science & Engineering at MIT



Jacopo Buongiorno is the TEPCO Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Director of Science and Technology of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory. He teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in thermo-fluids engineering and nuclear reactor engineering. Jacopo has published 90 journal articles in the areas of reactor safety and design, two-phase flow and heat transfer, and nanofluid technology. For his research work and his teaching at MIT he won several awards, among which the ANS Outstanding Teacher Award (2019), the MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellowship (2014), the ANS Landis Young Member Engineering Achievement Award (2011), the ASME Heat Transfer Best Paper Award (2008), and the ANS Mark Mills Award (2001) Jacopo is the Director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES). In 2016–2018 he led the MIT study on the Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World. Jacopo is a consultant for the nuclear industry in the area of reactor thermal-hydraulics, and a member of the Accrediting Board of the National Academy of Nuclear Training. He is also a member of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Space Working Group, a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society (including service on its Special Committee on Fukushima in 2011–2012), a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, past member of the Naval Studies Board (2017–2019), and a participant in the Defense Science Study Group (2014–2015).


  • ANS Outstanding Teacher Award, MIT, May 2019
  • Best Paper Award at the 17th International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Reactor Thermal Hydraulics (NURETH-17), Xi’an, China, September 3-8, 2017. (M. M. Rahman, C. Wang, G. Saccone, M. Bucci, J. Buongiorno, “Mechanistic prediction of wickability and CHF enhancement in micro- and nano-engineered surface”)
  • Fellow, American Nuclear Society, May 2017
  • 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


Research Interests

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

Nuclear Batteries

Enabled by advances in embedded intelligence and adaptive manufacturing and materials, we are developing new small, flexible, plug-and-play nuclear systems, known as Nuclear Batteries (NB). These batteries are unique in both form and function, having the potential to structurally change the very nature of energy supply and global economic competition. They are particularly well suited for a paradigm where energy source is embedded in the application. They can deliver clean, virtually unlimited electricity and heat to nano- and micro- energy grids on-site anywhere on the planet at any scale without being connected to a national grid or fuel pipeline. No other energy system paradigm can do that. They can provide energy locally for industrial processes, production of food, desalinated water, medications, synthetic fuels, and much more This sets the stage for new types of more resilient, competitive, productive, and less-resource intensive energy-industrial platforms, without many of today’s risks. NB-powered nano- and micro- energy grids can enable a more distributed, democratized, and secure energy-industrial system, delivering the increased socio-economic, health and environmental resilience that the world’s nations, small and large, sorely need.

Study on the Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon Constrained World

We are conducting a multi-disciplinary assessment of the opportunities and challenges affecting the ability of nuclear energy technologies in meeting U.S. and global energy needs in a carbon-constrained world. This study is timely as the landscape and boundary conditions for nuclear have drastically changed in the past 6-8 years due to a number of contributing factors. The study started in August 2016 and will culminate with the release of a report in the Spring of 2018. For more information, including specific objectives, events, and a list of faculty, students and members of the advisory board, click here.

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.
VIDEO: The Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant (OFNP) concept

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’.

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.

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’. We study the synthesis and behavior of nanofluids, including fundamentals of heat transfer, boiling phenomena and specifically the enhancement mechanisms for Critical Heat Flux (CHF) and quenching acceleration, which are relevant to the reactor application.

Ultra-low Thermal-Conductivity Materials for Cold-Water Wetsuits

There are three basic designs of cold-water diving suits including wetsuits, variable volume drysuits (air-filled gap) and hot water wetsuits (circulating water from a surface supply). They either suffer from limited thermal insulation (wetsuit), limited range (hot water wetsuits) or risk of catastrophic failure (variable volume drysuits and hot water wetsuits). This project has been focusing on creating highly-insulating “artificial blubber” by improving the insulating properties of neoprene foam. We made encouraging progress towards this goal, having shown that infusing (“charging”) highly-insulating noble gases into neoprene can reduce its thermal conductivity by as much as 40%. We also showed that this improvement in thermal insulation is highly repeatable, and demonstrated the improvement for an entire wetsuit.
PODCAST: Otter alternatives to conventional wetsuits
VIDEO: Artificial blubber
VIDEO: Ultra-low Thermal-Conductivity Materials for Cold-Water Wetsuits


“Ultra-Low Thermal Conductivity Diving-Suit Material for Enhanced Persistence in Cold-Water Dives U.S. Application No.: 62/424828, Filing Date: November 21, 2016, Inventor(s: Jacopo Buongiorno, Matteo Bucci, Anton Lee Cottrill, Jeffrey Moran, Michael S Strano

“In-situ treatment of metallic surfaces”, Provisional patent, Serial Number 61/153,411. United States Patent and TM Office. Filing date 18 February 2009. L. W. Hu, J. Buongiorno, B. Truong, H. Feldman

“Concentrated solar power system”, International Publication No. WO 2011/035232 March 24, 2011. US patent No. 9273883, Published March 1 , 2016 A. Slocum, J. Buongiorno, C. Forsberg, D. Codd, A. Paxson

“Hydrophobic Porous Coatings for Creation of Stable Vapor Films to Reduce Drag”, U.S. Application No.: 61/706401, Filing Date: September 27, 2012, M.I.T. Case No. 15825K, MIT Docket No.: 15825.113297, R. Cohen, M. Rubner, J. Buongiorno, H. O'Hanley, T. McKrell

“Nanoparticle Thin-Film Coatings for Enhancement of Boiling Heat Transfer”, U.S. Patent No. 8,701,927, April 2014. M. Rubner, J. Buongiorno, L.W. Hu, E. Forrest, E. Williamson, R. Cohen

“Surface Textures and Methods for Enhancing and Controlling Critical Heat Flux in Boiling on Surfaces”, U.S. Application No.: 62/187335, Filing Date: July 1, 2015, N. Dhillon, J. Buongiorno, K. Varanasi


Recent Publications

  1. J. Conway, N. Todreas, J. Halsema, C. Guryan, A. Birch, T. Isdanavich, J. Florek, J. Buongiorno, M. Golay, “Physical Security Analysis and Simulation of the Multi-Layer Security System for the Offshore Nuclear Plant (ONP)”, Nuc. Eng. Design, 352, 2019.
  2. G. Su, F.P. D’Aleo, B. Phillips, R. Streich, E. Al-Safran, J. Buongiorno, H.M. Prasser, “On the oscillatory nature of heat transfer in steady annular flow”, Int.l Comm. Heat Mass Transfer, 108, 104328, 2019.
  3. J. Buongiorno, M. Corradini, J. Parsons, D. Petti, “The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World”, IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, March, 2019.
  4. J. Parsons, J. Buongiorno, M. Corradini, D. Petti, “A fresh look at nuclear energy”, Science, Vol. 363, Issue 6423, Page 105, 11 January 2019.
  5. J. Buongiorno, M. Corradini, J. Parsons, D. Petti, The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon Constrained-World, An MIT Interdisciplinary Study, MIT Energy Initiative, September 2018.
  6. A. Guion, S. Afkhami, S. Zaleski, J. Buongiorno, “Simulations of microlayer formation in nucleate boiling”, Int. J. Heat Mass Transfer, Vol. 127 (Part B), 1271–1284, 2018.
  7. S. Afkhami, J. Buongiorno, A. Guion, S. Popinet, R. Scardovelli, S. Zaleski, “Transition in a numerical model of contact line dynamics and forced dewetting”, J. Computational Physics, 374, 1061–1093, 2018.
  8. A. Richenderfer, A. Kossolapov, J. H. Seong, G. Saccone, E. Demarly, R. Kommajosyula, E. Baglietto, J. Buongiorno, M. Bucci, “Investigation of subcooled flow boiling and CHF using high-resolution diagnostics Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science”, Exp. Thermal Fluid Science, 99, 35–58, 2018.
  9. J. L. Moran, A. L. Cottrill, J. D. Benck, P. Liu, Z. Yuan, M. S. Strano, J. Buongiorno, “Noble-Gas-Infused Neoprene Closed-Cell Foams Achieving Ultra-Low Thermal Conductivity Fabrics”, RSC Advances, 8, 21389–21398, 2018.
  10. M. Trojer, R. Azizian, J. Paras, T. McKrell, K. Atkhen, M. Bucci, J. Buongiorno, “A margin missed: the effect of surface oxidation on CHF enhancement in IVR accident scenarios”, Nuc. Eng. Design, 335, 140–150, 2018.
  11. Y. Zhang, J. Buongiorno, M. Golay, N. Todreas, “Safety analysis of a 300 MWe offshore floating nuclear power plant in marine environment”, Nuc. Tech., Volume 203, Issue 2, 2018.

all publications (pdf)


22.06 Engineering of Nuclear Systems
2.005 Thermal-Fluids Engineering I
22.011x Nuclear Energy: Science, Systems and Society
22.312 Engineering of Nuclear Reactors
22.313J Thermal Hydraulics in Power Technology


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    Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    77 Massachusetts Avenue, 24-107 (map)
    Cambridge, MA 02139