Mitchell Smooke Awarded the Zeldovich Medal

Professor Mitchell Smooke’s work specializes in the development of numerical and computation procedures to solve problems related to chemically reacting flows, particularly flame structures. Courtesy of Mitchell Smooke.

Mitchell Smooke, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Applied Physics at Yale University, was awarded this year’s Zeldovich Gold Medal by the Combustion Institute for his work in combustion theory.

The Combustion Institute awards three Gold Medals every two years. One of them, the Zeldovich medal, is named in honor of Russian scientist Yakov B. Zeldovich, the father of combustion theory. This honor was recently awarded to Smooke in Warsaw, Poland.

“I was thrilled about it,” said Smooke, who has been a key contributor to developing numerical and computation procedures. His work has helped to solve problems relating to chemically reacting flows, most notably flame structures.

When asked what made him unique out of the other candidates across the world, Smooke replied, “I think part of it was that we had developed software that could be distributed, and we put this general area on the map when there were not a lot of people doing [computational combustion] many years ago.” Indeed, the number of researchers in this field has expanded exponentially within the last few years, and Smooke’s work has been critical to expanding this dicipline. In fact, one-third of the Combustion Institute’s volumes of peer review papers include some aspect of work developed by Smooke’s team.

Currently, Smooke and his colleagues have been busy developing solutions to problems that involve surrogate fuels, mixtures of chemical components that mimic the behavior of transportation fuels. Funded by the U.S. Air Force, Smooke is operating one of the five modeling projects at the International Space Station, known as the ACME project. Smooke continues to contribute towards solving problems of computational combustion and improving our knowledge of molecular diffusion and chemical kinetics today.