Hydrogen, the most abundant chemical substance in the universe, may, as an energy carrier hold the key to the inevitable and needed transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Together with Norway's important role as a major energy provider in Europe comes the obligation to be a leading player in this transition.
Hydrogen has the potential to both act as an energy buffer for intermittent and weather dependent renewable sources, as well as carrying the energy stored in fossil fuels in a carbon neutral way if done with CCS. However, hydrogen is well known to seep into materials and deteriorate their mechanical and physical properties. This phenomenon is known as hydrogen embrittlement.
SMART-H represents the necessary pre-requisite for the following natural step in the national hydrogen research, focusing on the materials and structural integrity of materials applied in transport and storage of high pressurized hydrogen. Only with access to the proposed RI will we be able to answer the following research issues:
- How much and how fast does atomic hydrogen from gaseous hydrogen enter and diffuse in various materials?
- What are the primary mechanisms that govern the distribution of atomic hydrogen in the structure of the materials, and the related material degradation?
- How do the hydrogen gas pressure and temperature affect the material properties, strength, fracture and fatigue resistance?
Together, and by answering these research challenges, will enable us to define quantitative limits on hydrogen absorption and how these will affect today's requirements on the fitness for service and safety of structures for hydrogen transport and storage. That is, we will be better equipped to better know how and eventually, for how long, a material and a structure can live with the known degradation due to hydrogen.
SMART-H will be a research infrastructure (RI) localized mainly in Trondheim consisting of 4 labs devoted to analyzing hydrogen in metals, macro-scale mechanical testing in high-pressure H2, nano- and micro-scale mechanical testing in high-pressure H2, and finally a materials informatics lab for consolidating the experimental works into a digital framework and providing an open innovation environment.
The SMART-H proposal addresses the need for new RI of national importance as defined in "National Strategy for Research Infrastructure (2018-2025) – Part I" under the thematic strategy areas "Environmental energy" and "Petroleum technology" and the need for an RI to study materials used for transport and use of hydrogen gas. Indeed, SMART-H addresses a topic with excellent integration between these two areas – as the source of the research challenges to be studied with the RI is independent of whether hydrogen gas is produced from renewable sources (wind, solar, hydro) or from natural gas with CCS. Also, the RI will address fundamental research challenges related to hydrogen embrittlement in material selection and lifetime-elongation/testing on various constructions and components that are either exposed to H2 or hydrogen produced from cathodic protection, such as most subsea metallic structures.
In light of the Norwegian Government's Long-term plan for research and higher education (2015-2024), SMART-H will, through establishing RI needed to address material challenges related to large-scale transport of hydrogen gas to the marked, address our obligation and need for a transition away from the fossil fuel society. With the establishment of the SMART-H RI, Norway will not only be in a better position to use existing pipeline infrastructure of hydrogen transport but will also be more attractive for international researchers and better equipped to handle future challenges to materials exposed to hydrogen and a transition to the 'hydrogen economy'.