Swanson School of Engineering wins $1.3MM grant from DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Programs

Source: Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh 

In a first for the University of Pittsburgh, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $1.3 million to the Swanson School of Engineering through the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP). The grants will support graduate fellowships and research grants primarily in the School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

The grant total includes $876,422 for computer modeling research into future generations of high-temperature reactors; $300,000 for a new radiation detection and measurement laboratory; and a $155,000 fellowship for a student pursuing a career in the nuclear field. In addition, a shared $599,802 grant with State University of New York – Stony Brook will help to develop a self-powered sensing and actuation system for nuclear reactors in case of major power failures.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for our Nuclear Engineering program, which has experienced steady growth thanks to the resurgence of the region’s nuclear energy industry,” noted Gerald D. Holder, PhD, US Steel Dean of Engineering. “I congratulate Dr. Kimber and Dr. Metzger, and Ms. Patel on receiving what I believe will be the first of many NEUP grants at Swanson.

Very High Temperature Reactors 

A team from the Swanson School of Engineering, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and Westinghouse will utilize the $876,000 grant to develop a comprehensive experimentally validated computational framework for the turbulent mixing in the lower plenum of next generation high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs). These high-efficiency reactors are utilized for electricity production and a broad range of process heat applications.

The team includes Principal Investigator Mark Kimber, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science; John Brigham, PhD, Assistant Professor of Structural Engineering and Mechanics in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Anirban Jana, PhD, Sr. Scientific Specialist, Scientific Applications and User Support at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center; and Milorad Dzodzo, PhD, Westinghouse Electric Company.

Through computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling and experimental validation, the results from this project will lay the groundwork for future stress analysis, failure and fatigue studies, and uncertainty quantification for HTGR systems.

Radiation Detection and Measurement Laboratory 

This $300,000 grant with the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine will enable Pitt to purchase detectors, instrumentation, and sources to establish and equip a new Radiation Detection and Measurement Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. The Principal Investigator is John Metzger, PE, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Director of the Nuclear Engineering Program. Co-PIs from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine include N. Scott Mason, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Radiology; Michael Sheetz, MS, CHP, DABMP, University Radiology Safety Officer; and Brian Lopresti, Research Instructor.

Graduate Fellowship 

Rita Patel, MEMS ’12, received a $155,000 fellowship to begin her graduate studies in materials science. Her advisor is Gerald H. Meier, PhD, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Director of Materials Science and Engineering Program.

Thermoelectric-Driven Sustainable Sensing and Actuation Systems for Fault-Tolerant Nuclear Incidents
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident in March 2011 represented an unprecedented stress test on the safety and backup systems of a nuclear power plant. Even though independent backup power systems were available, their battery sources were ultimately drained. This $599,802 project, led by Principal Investigator Jon Longtin, Ph.D., P.E., Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stony Brook, joined by Pitt’s Dr. John Metzger, will investigate the development of sensing and actuation systems powered by the reactor’s own intrinsic heat, rather than external power or backup battery systems.

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