Spectral element applications in complex nuclear reactor geometries: Tet-to-hex meshing

Haomin Yuan, Mustafa A. Yildiz, Elia Merzari, Yiqi Yu, Aleksandr Obabko, Gerrit Botha, Giacomo Busco, Yassin A. Hassan, Duy Thien Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The spectral element code Nek5000 is an open-source, higher-order computational fluid dynamics code developed at Argonne National Laboratory. It is designed to solve incompressible Navier-Stokes equations, but it also has a low-Mach-number approximation feature available. Large eddy simulation is approached by explicit filtering of the velocity field (and other fields) to mimic the effect of dissipation due to the unresolved scale. The computational domain is decomposed into second-order hexahedral elements that conform to the boundaries. However, generating a high-quality pure-hexahedral mesh can be challenging for some problems. For simple geometries, traditional blocking methods can be used to decompose the domain into smaller blocks to generate a so-called structural mesh. A structural mesh can maintain good orthogonality but can have a highly skewed mesh to conform to the geometry, as well as unnecessary refinement in the far field. Moreover, for geometries with relative complexity, blocking the geometry becomes impossible. To address these issues, we adopted a tet-to-hex strategy to generate a pure hexahedral mesh for Nek5000. First, we generate a pure tetrahedral mesh for the geometry; then we divide one tetrahedral element into four hexahedral elements. A pure tetrahedral mesh could be easily generated for complex geometries by using many current meshing codes. In this paper, we use the commercial codes ANSYS meshing and ANSYS ICEM to generate the pure tetrahedral mesh and then convert it to a pure hexahedral mesh. Boundary layers are extruded in ANSYSICEM to maintain near-wall resolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110422
JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
StatePublished - Feb 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Mechanical Engineering


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