Scientists get nearer to solving the embrittlement issue in hydrogen transport

Scientists get nearer to solving the embrittlement issue in hydrogen transport

March 7, 2024 0 By John Max

This issue in steel is among the biggest challenges to large-scale transportation of H2

Among the largest challenges to large-scale hydrogen transportation has to do with steel embrittlement, when H2 causes the material to become brittle and crack.

Researchers think they may be a step closer to overcoming this issue

University of Sydney researchers in Australia believe that they may have taken an important step closer to figuring out this problem with hydrogen transportation. They found that by adding molybdenum, a chemical element, to steel already reinforced with metal carbides, the outcome is an improved capacity for containing hydrogen.

Advanced microscopy technique to overcome steel embrittlement

The researchers published their findings in the Nature Communications journal. In their paper, they showed how the team led by Professor Julie Cairney and Dr Yi-Sheng (Eason) Chen used cryogenic atom probe tomography, an advanced microscopy technique created at the University of Sydney.  This technique was used for direct observation of H2 distribution in materials.

Why it happens

“We hope this study will get us closer to revealing exactly why hydrogen embrittlement occurs in steel, paving the way for large-scale solutions to hydrogen transport and storage,” said Professor Cairney of the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis where the team performed the research.

Embrittlement - Research - H2 Transportation

Hydrogen embrittlement occurs H2 causes strong materials such as steel to crack after becoming brittle.  The researchers have said that this remains one of the largest obstacles the H2 economy faces for a successful transition.  The reason is that it stops H2 from being able to be stored and transported effectively at high pressures.

As a result, solving this challenge could be critical to the decarbonization and clean energy market.

“The future of a large-scale hydrogen economy largely comes down to this issue. Hydrogen is notoriously insidious; as the smallest atom and molecule, it seeps into materials, then cracks and breaks them,” said Dr. Chen. “To be able to effectively produce, transport, store and use hydrogen on a large-scale, this is not ideal.”

Molybdenum to prevent steel embrittlement by hydrogen

hydrogen news ebookThe researchers added molybdenum to the steel that had been combined with other elements to create a result in the form of a carbide ceramic. Carbides are commonly added to steels as they enhance strength and durability.

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