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Hydrogen Materials Compatibility Studies

EMSL Project ID


We propose to use the world-class ion scattering facilities at EMSL to advance the understanding of the effects of high-pressure hydrogen on nanolaminate low friction coatings and piezoelectric materials by measuring hydrogen absorption behavior in piezoelectrics and nanolaminates under varied hydrogen exposure conditions. While the behavior of hydrogen in metals is well known, the behavior of hydrogen in piezoelectrics and nanolaminates is still poorly understood. The purpose of these measurements is to understand how these materials absorb and desorb hydrogen and under what conditions, where the hydrogen goes and how it behaves in the material and what affects it has on their functionality and material properties as well as ways to mitigate such effects. Only a handful of techniques exist that can detect the low levels of hydrogen in materials that we expect. EMSL has an excellent and unique suite of tools that have demonstrated excellence in detecting low levels of hydrogen absorbed in materials. Both piezoelectric and nanolaminates are integral parts of a major effort to make internal combustion (IC) engines compatible with clean burning hydrogen fuel. Further, there is a need to understand how to protect materials during frictional wear in hydrogen environments. The materials science challenges include rapid 'hydrogen fouling' of piezoelectric actuators and increased wear in hydrogen due to embrittlement. Recent research has found potential solutions to these problems in alternate piezoelectric materials and nanolaminate low friction coatings, which are designed to be inert to a hydrogen atmosphere. The EMSL research is critical to understanding the role of hydrogen in these materials and thus will help clear the roadblocks for zero emission hydrogen (or low emission hydrogen/natural gas hybrid) powered vehicles and for other uses of materials in hydrogen environments, including the emerging field of Ferroelectric RAM which suffers from many of the same hydrogen fouling issues.

Project Details

Project type
Exploratory Research
Start Date
End Date


Principal Investigator

Kyle Alvine
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Team Members

Joseph Ryan
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Wendy Bennett
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Vaithiyalingam Shutthanandan
Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

Charles Henager
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory