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The Hydrogen Economy - Evaluation of the Materials Science and Engineering Issues


The main objectives were to identify materials issues relating to the widespread use of hydrogen as a fuel.

  • Hydrogen is seen by many as the answer to the environmental problems of reliance on fossil fuels for energy needs. A great deal of effort is currently being invested in research into all areas of the hydrogen economy, such as fuel cells, hydrogen generation, transportation and storage.
  • Fuel cells have the potential to provide power for a very wide range of applications, ranging from small portable electronics devices to large stationary electricity production and vehicles covering the whole range of road vehicles and possibly extending to rail, marine and even aviation.
  • The main obstacles to achieving a viable hydrogen economy are costs of producing hydrogen from renewable sources, issues relating to transportation and storage due to the low energy density of hydrogen gas, and the cost and reliability of fuel cells.
  • The main material considerations relating to the use of hydrogen are hydrogen embrittlement, material properties at cryogenic temperatures (due to use of liquid hydrogen) and permeability.
  • A number of new materials are likely to come to prominence in a hydrogen economy; high performance composites are likely to be used extensively for high pressure hydrogen cylinders, new materials, or combinations of materials, may be used for hydrogen pipelines and a range of new materials are currently being considered for hydrogen storage, such as metal hydrides and carbon nanotubes.
  • Due to the effect of hydrogen on materials, it is important to test any materials in the environment in which they would be used. Depending on the type of test, this could require the use of very specialist, expensive equipment. 

Funding source: Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Related subjects: Safety
Countries: United Kingdom

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