Engineering metal-carbide hydrogen traps in steels

Nat Commun. 2024 Jan 25;15(1):724. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-45017-4.


Hydrogen embrittlement reduces the durability of the structural steels required for the hydrogen economy. Understanding how hydrogen interacts with the materials plays a crucial role in managing the embrittlement problems. Theoretical models have indicated that carbon vacancies in metal carbide precipitates are effective hydrogen traps in steels. Increasing the number of carbon vacancies in individual metal carbides is important since the overall hydrogen trapping capacity can be leveraged by introducing abundant metal carbides in steels. To verify this concept, we compare a reference steel containing titanium carbides (TiCs), which lack carbon vacancies, with an experimental steel added with molybdenum (Mo), which form Ti-Mo carbides comprising more carbon vacancies than TiCs. We employ theoretical and experimental techniques to examine the hydrogen trapping behavior of the carbides, demonstrating adding Mo alters the hydrogen trapping mechanism, enabling hydrogen to access carbon vacancy traps within the carbides, leading to an increase in trapping capacity.