If hydrogen (H2) is the fuel of the future, it is essential that the specialised, lightweight components that make up H2 applications are safe, strong and durable. Now the “ThinKing” innovation prize, awarded by the Baden-Württemberg Agency for Lightweight Construction, has been given to a team of researchers from the Materials Testing Institute (MPA) at the University of Stuttgart for inventing a force measurement sensor that measures precise strength parameters in the testing and development of the parts used in H2 technology.
In lightweight construction, the load-bearing limits of the materials must be exhausted to save weight. The new sensor means that manufacturers of H2 tech components can now run highly-accurate tests to exploit the load and stress limits of the materials. In particular, vibration strength, the elongation at break and crack growth – factors which are strongly influenced by the H2 medium – must be calculated.
Hydrogen is a unique environmental medium from a material and technological perspective. The gas can diffuse through even the densest steel and cause damage. In order to design the tanks, pipes, nozzles and fuel cell components to contain and transport H2, material samples must first be extensively tested in sealed autoclaves under hydrogen atmosphere.
The solution developed at MPA uses a cylinder rod which passes through the autoclave and is constructed in such a way to avoid damage from the medium inside it. In prototype testing, the force measuring sensor developed by Dr Martin Werz and his team (which has been successfully patented) showed that highly-precise characteristic values were consistently supplied and could be repeated. The MPA now offer a testing service and can also license the sensor to manufacturers.