Several metallic materials change under the influence of hydrogen - the strength and the ductility decrease, cracks or even fractures might be formed. In short, hydrogen can significantly reduce the life time of many materials and in the worst case, lead to the failure of entire components. In other areas of application however, the controlled absorption of hydrogen into materials and substances is regarded as extremely beneficial. In the production of high-quality rare earth sintered magnets for example, the ingots (as the starting material) are systematically converted into magnet powder having an improved grindability by means of hydrogen decrepitation. The absorption and storage of hydrogen in materials is commonly referred to as hydrogen embrittlement.
The Fraunhofer Project Group IWKS operates various apparatuses in order to investigate the effect of hydrogen on metal alloys or complete devices. For smaller sized components a hydrogen reactor having a pressure range between a few mbar up to 100 bar is available.
Another hydrogen autoclave system allows the examination of samples up to a weight of 50 kg, at a maximum H2-pressure of up to10 bar and temperatures of up to 500 °C.
To analyze the effect of hydrogen on the materials, the project group offers a wide range of characterization techniques such as high resolution scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction or hot gas extraction for oxygen-nitrogen-hydrogen analysis.