The reduction of harmful emissions to the environment is one of the most urgent challenges of our time. To achieve this goal, it is inevitable to shift from using fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Within this transition, hydrogen can play a key role serving as fuel in transportation and as means for energy storage.
The storage and transport of hydrogen using austenitic stainless steels as the infrastructure, as well as the use of these grades in hydrogen containing aggressive environments, remains problematic. The degradation of the mechanical properties and the possibility of phase transformation by ingress and accumulation of hydrogen are the main drawbacks.1 Advanced studies of the behaviour of hydrogen in austenite is necessary to fully understand the occurring damage processes. This knowledge is crucial for the safe use of components in industry and transportation facilities of hydrogen.
A powerful tool for depicting the distribution of hydrogen in steels, with high accuracy and resolution, is time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS).2 We here present a comprehensive research on the hydrogen degradation processes in AISI 304L based on electrochemical charging and subsequent ToF-SIMS experiments. To obtain furthermore information about the structural composition and cracking behaviour, electron-backscattered diffraction (EBSD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were performed afterwards. All the gathered data was treated employing data fusion, thus creating a thorough portrait of hydrogen diffusion and its damaging effects in AISI 304L.
Specimens were charged with deuterium instead of hydrogen. This necessity stems from the difficulty to separate between artificially charged hydrogen and traces existing in the material or adsorbed from the rest gas in the analysis chamber. Similar diffusion and permeation behaviour, as well as solubility, allow nonetheless to draw conclusions from the experiments.3