Hydrogen can cause steel to tank. New Australian research offers a solution

University of Sydney researchers have shown the way for new steel alloy designs to combat brittleness caused by exposure to hydrogen.


A team from the university, working in partnership with CITIC Metal, has showed how hydrogen gas collects in the boundaries between crystals and in “dislocations” in the metal’s microstructure, weakening it. 


“These findings are vital for designing embrittlement-resistant steel; the carbides offer a solution to ensuring high-strength steels are not prone to early fracture and reduced toughness in the presence of hydrogen,” said lead researcher Dr Yi-Sheng Chen, from the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis and Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sydney.


The work published in Science showed evidence that clusters of niobium carbide can resist the embrittlement of steel by trapping hydrogen so it cannot collect in dislocations and crystal boundaries.


Hydrogen is currently of interest as a greenhouse gas emissions-free fuel source. Among its limitations is the way it weakens steel tanks and pipes.


Picture: Dr Yi-Sheng Chen with a state-of-the-art custom-designed cryogenic atom probe microscope (University of Sydney)


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