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Hydrogen Materials Compatibility Studies

EMSL Project ID


We propose to use the unique and world-class ion scattering accelerator facilities at EMSL to continue to advance the scientific understanding of the effects of high-pressure hydrogen on piezoelectric/metal systems and nanostructured wear-resistant coatings for use in high pressure hydrogen environments. Piezoelectric actuators are used as high pressure hydrogen injectors in new direct injection hydrogen internal combustion engines (HICE). These are viewed as short term stand-ins for hydrogen fuel cells, though in FY09 Ford demonstrated 45% Brake Thermal Efficiency for a prototype HICE, comparable to fuel cell potential and at a fraction of the cost. Nanostructured coatings are being explored as ultra-hard, low friction coatings compatible with the harsh hydrogen environment detrimental to most metals. Previously, (FY09) we have used the EMSL ion scattering facility to measure the hydrogen uptake in two very different piezoelectric materials, barium titanate (BTO) and lead zirconate titanate (PZT) and hydrogen uptake in PZT and BTO films with a Pd overlayer. These measurements provided us with a baseline for mapping the extent of hydrogen absorption in piezoelectric/metal systems. This information is important because hydrogen absorption severely degrades piezoelectric performance and significantly reduces the reliability and lifetime of the piezoelectric actuator. With this proposal we plan to complete our piezoelectric/hydrogen study by mapping out the hydrogen absorption/desorption as a function of temperature and comparing several different metal electrode systems. We have five different metal (Ti, Pd, Cu, Al, W) electrode systems (on both BTO and PZT) that cover the entire range of hydrogen activity. From these measurements, we plan to determine ways to mitigate hydrogen absorption by optimization of materials and temperature range. We have also used the EMSL ion scattering facility to do initial tests on nanolaminate systems exposed to high pressure hydrogen. We plan under this new proposal to quantify the hydrogen uptake for a variety of nanolaminate systems fabricated under different conditions as well as the effect of this hydrogen on the structure and performance of these protective films. Measurements of potential hydrogen absorption are a critical test parameter for qualification of these systems.

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

Charles Henager
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory