Understanding and influencing the effects and uses of hydrogen on materials

Hydrogen research at the Fraunhofer IWM

Hydrogen plays a prominent role in all future scenarios of the energy industry. As a connecting element between the different areas of energy supply, hydrogen contributes to the sustainable conversion, storage and use of energy. Hydrogen technology supports the expansion of renewable energy systems and the avoidance of CO2 emissions. Regarding production and operation, hydrogen stored in atomic form can trigger structural damage mechanisms that cause component failure. Therefore, in order to ensure safe operation and a long service life of systems in contact with hydrogen, diffusion, reaction and damage processes must be taken into account during the development, production and use of many materials, especially high-performance materials in contact with hydrogen.


Hydrogen @ Fraunhofer IWM


An advanced description and evaluation of the effects of hydrogen regarding materials takes into account mechanisms on both the macroscopic and microstructural scales as well as on the atomic scale and translates these mechanisms into reliable life cycle predictions and risk assessments. It is precisely these requirements that the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM - via its research and development focus on materials in contact with hydrogen – satisfies and fulfills.

Our research and development work aims to describe interactions of atomic or molecular hydrogen in contact with materials using experimental methods and theoretical models: adsorption, desorption, dissociation and association of gases or fluids containing molecular hydrogen on material surfaces, absorption, permeation, diffusion and reaction of atomic hydrogen in material structures. This enables us to provide a target-oriented mechanistic description of damage processes, an evaluation of material and component behavior and the derivation of design guidelines and life cycle predictions.

© Fraunhofer IWM

© Fraunhofer IWM

Laboratory opening and hydrogen workshop on April 10th & 11th, 2019


We are using the workshop "Influencing the effects of hydrogen on materials" as an opportunity to present current solutions for the use of materials in contact with hydrogen as well as to discuss future-oriented concepts with prominent representatives from industry and science.

At the Fraunhofer IWM, we have considerably expanded our ability to provide practical and theoretical opportunities for material-hydrogen mechanics: new laboratory facilities, new experimental techniques and new simulation tools, which will be presented as part of this workshop.

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Application specific evaluation and qualification of materials

© Fraunhofer IWM
Tensile test with exposure to hydrogen / permeation test under load.
  • Experimental determination of diffusible and trapped hydrogen in materials, hydrogen trap density and their binding energies.
  • In situ degradation and strength experimentation under static, dynamic, cyclic and thermal loading.
  • Determination of fracture mechanical properties under pressure/electrochemically supplied hydrogen.


Contact us: 

Ken Wackermann, Phone: +49 761 5142-492, Send email
Wulf Pfeiffer, Phone: +49 761 5142-166, Send email

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Material design for hydrogen technologies

© Fraunhofer IWM
  • Micro- and multiscale mechanistic modeling of hydrogen in materials with quantum mechanical and atomistic computer simulation methods
  • Simulation of diffusion and reaction of hydrogen in metallic and ceramic materials
  • Calculation of binding energies, activation energies, structure and temperature dependent diffusivity of hydrogen in material structures
  • Computational design, optimization and screening of hydrogen storage compounds as functional materials for energy systems, metal hydride storage, ion batteries and fuel cells
  • Experimental micromechanical observation and elucidation of hydrogen induced material damage processes on microscale material samples


Contact us:

Daniel Urban, Phone: +49 761 5142-492-378, Send email

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Hydrogen in tribological systems

© Fraunhofer IWM
White etching cracks under roll bearing stress below the bearing track.
  • Risk assessment of lubricants with regard to hydrogen induced sliding and rolling bearing damage
  • Concepts to avoid hydrogen induced surface damage under tribological stress
  • Modeling of hydrogen in tribo contact


Contact us:

Dr. Dominik Kürten, Phone: +49 761 5142-148, Send email



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Hydrogen in production processes

© Fraunhofer IWM
Electroplated, micro-cracked hard chrome layer
  • Analysis of the production chain regarding temporary and permanent hydrogen input
  • Modeling of effusion treatments
  • Modeling and evaluation of cold cracks in welded joints


Contact us:

Johannes Preußner, Phone: +49 761 5142-101, Send email
Frank Schweizer, Phone: +49 761 5142-122, Send email


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Strength analyses and lifetime modeling

© Fraunhofer IWM
Cross-scale modeling of crack propagation caused by hydrogen.
  • Strength analyses and failure evaluation for components
  • Models for diffusion-controlled crack propagation
  • Lifetime models (DTMF) for components under hydrogen embrittlement


Contact us:

Johannes Preußner, Phone: +49 761 5142-101, Send email
Ken Wackermann, Phone: +49 761 5142-492, Send email


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Fraunhofer IWM video series: Hydrogen embrittlement

Dr. Ken Wackermann

Why is there a need for new hydrogen embrittlement test systems?

Autoklave at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM



Hydrogen embrittlement in metals


Atomic hydrogen is capable of significantly reducing the ductility of metals. This can cause components to fail unexpectedly. The potential risk is generally related to the diffusible portion of the hydrogen. In order to predict the effects of hydrogen on material and component behavior via numerical simulations, we determine the dependence of the hydrogen diffusion constants on mechanical stress and temperature. The effects of hydrogen on the mechanical parameters of a metal are...


Hydrogen in iron and steel

Hydrogen penetration into metals causes their mechanical stability to degrade – a phenomenon known as hydrogen embrittlement. Hydrogen embrittlement affects almost all metals and is therefore the cause of significant technical and economic damage. The IWM investigates the inclusion and migration of hydrogen atoms in iron and nickel using quantum mechanics and atomistic computer simulations. The susceptibility of the metals to hydrogen...


NZP materials as solid-state electrolytes for lithium ion batteries

When used as electrode materials for lithium ion batteries, ion-conducting solid-state bodies can significantly improve operational safety. The three dimensional canal network in the crystal structure of materials derived from NaZr2(PO4)3 (NZP) is a strong conductor of ions. Density functional theory and atomistic simulations are used to investigate Li-ion diffusion in relation to the NZP composition and...


Welded Joints: Evaluation and Lifetime Concepts


We develop solutions which enable you to improve welding processes in your applications. Additionally, we support you in evaluating welded joints: was the welding done correctly? Did any cavities, pores or welding mistakes occur and/or was the welding incomplete? Did you create unwanted residual stress?...


Damage analysis


We support you by clarifying the causes of damage as well as by introducing and implementing practical measures for avoiding damage.


Microstructure assessment


Microstructures are responsible for the properties of raw materials and therefore for the properties of the resulting components which are produced. Microstructures are adjusted using different manufacturing steps. In use, they can change both positively and negatively. We uncover the relationships between the raw materials’ properties and those of the microstructure and use this information for optimized raw material properties and for the optimized use of raw materials - for...


Measuring and controlling hydrogen permeation


With the growing importance of power-to-gas and fuel cell applications, metallic components often have to be protected against hydrogen embrittlement. Examples are bipolar plates in SOFC fuel cells, which are exposed to corrosive acid and hydrogen atmospheres...

Groups involved with hydrogen at the Fraunhofer IWM

Microstructure and Residual Stresses


We investigate the effect of manufacturing processes and operational loads on the microstructure and the internal stress in materials and components. A particular...

Wear Protection and Advanced Ceramics


We use experimental friction and wear analysis methods to determine friction coefficients and wear rates, including Stribeck curves. We test, assess and...


Materials Modeling


We investigate material behaviors and predict material properties using theoretical and computational methods based on solid-state physics and materials mechanics. Our ambition is to design material structures...

Tribological and Functional Coatings


One of the keys to reducing friction and protecting against wear is to coat components with diamond-like carbon (DLC) or hydrocarbon layers. With the...