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You are here: > News > Nov. 18, 2005

Hydrogen embrittlement not a substantial threat

Hydrogen-conversion expert, and clean-fuel specialist, Tai Robinson, responds to assertion that when hydrogen gas dissolves into the structure of certain metals such as aluminum & steels, it can cause cracking and failure of metal components.

by Tai Robinson
for Pure Energy Systems News

Responding to:

  • Hydrogen Embrittlement: Bad News for H-Cars - When hydrogen gas dissolves into the structure of certain metals (usually aluminum & steels), it can cause cracking and failure of metal components. This has been detected in some engine components, in some cases severely. (PESWiki; Oct. 6, 2005)


Tai Rabinson, CEO of Intergalactic Hydrogen, with his H-powered truck at Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado
Intergalactic Hydrogen provides MADE-IN-USA renewable energy products & cleaner fuel options that work with today's infrastructure and beyond. We build multi-fuel, hydrogen, methane, propane, biodiesel and ethanol automobiles and appliances. We promote the clean fuel revolution through educational workshops and engineering consultation. Reduce your footprint on the planet with American Fuel Vehicles (AFV's) and declare your energy independence.

Embrittlement is not a substantiated threat. It takes specific circumstances to reproduce this phenomenon. I have available copies of Dr. Roy McAlister's book "The Solar Hydrogen Civilization" that covers this subject. Steel tanks are still in use today to hold hydrogen that were first hydrostatically tested in 1917 and earlier. Hydrogen is also transported in steel pipelines around the world without this problem. I am aware of situations that can cause embrittlement, but not in aluminum.

Ionic hydrogen is much smaller than normal diatomic hydrogen. When ionic hydrogen is produced such as during arc welding, or welding in a wet environment, it may indeed cause embrittlement of steel. Certified welders prevent this with proper techniques such as cleaning, preheating and keeping their work pieces dry during welding. A properly constructed steel pipeline that currently caries natural gas can also transport hydrogen without a problem.

Rapid heating or cooling of steel in the presence of hydrogen is best avoided. Apparently the heat from filling a metal hydride cylinder with hydrogen that is made out of steel can introduce hydrogen into the metal container. As the hydrogen works its way into the metal it can weaken it. The cooling of the metal during de-fueling may also cause it to contract, creating stress on the already weakend container. Therefore, a suitable material for metal-hydride tanks has been aluminum. Type IV tanks made from composite wrapped, plastic liners are also preferable for storing hydrogen. The industry standard for fuel tubing in automobiles is stainless steel.

Another concern is with high strength steel. High strength steel is not allowed to be used as a storage vessel for hydrogen.

My truck has almost 150,000 miles on it. The engine has primarily burned methane for fuel. Hydrogen has been the second most used fuel followed by ethanol and I am sorry to say, but 19 gallons of gasoline have also been used this year. The engine does not use any more oil now than it did at 30,000. Embrittlement has not been an issue in this engine, nor would I foresee it being a problem in any internal combustion engine, (H2ICE).

If you employ proper practices when handling hydrogen safely, it is far less dangerous than propane, gasoline, or diesel. If you are making your own hydrogen and plan to store it, make sure you have pure hydrogen without any oxygen. Hydrogen can not explode on its own, but it burns very well when combined with oxygen. For those making Browns gas, be careful.  In Germany they call it boom gas for a reason!

The reason the hydrogen industry has chosen aluminum and plastic tanks is because there is no known enbrittlement of them. I have watched United Nuclear for a while and the prices they have stated are not realistic. Parts for a fuel system upgrade can not even be obtained for that today. Their electorlyzer is also very suspect on energy input and hydrogen output. I am afraid they are making extraordinary claims to sway people away from the truth and in fact alienate people of the possibilities of hydrogen.

I just returned from the Fuel Cell Seminar in Palm Springs. The industry is growing rapidly, huge attendance. I still believe the best application for fuel cells is stationary power and that viable hydrogen vehicles are ICE today. Multi-fuel ICE has been working for me. I drove there and back only using hydrogen and methane for fuel. did not even need to use any ethanol. Most of the fuel cell manufacturers were pulling out of transportation applications and focusing on portable, or stationary power.

# # #


  • Email from Tai Robinson, October 21, 2005 and (appended) Nov. 20, 2005

See also


Page posted by Sterling D. Allan Nov. 18, 2005
Last updated December 24, 2014





"It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom." // "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right." -- Albert Einstein

ADVISORY: With any technology, you take a high risk to invest significant time or money unless (1) independent testing has thoroughly corroborated the technology, (2) the group involved has intellectual rights to the technology, and (3) the group has the ability to make a success of the endeavor.
All truth passes through three stages:
   First, it is ridiculed;
   Second, it is violently opposed; and
   Third, it is accepted as self-evident.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

    "When you're one step ahead
of the crowd you're a genius.
When you're two steps ahead,
you're a crackpot."

-- Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, (Feb. 1998)

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