Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) was used to image austenitic stainless steel (SS) samples (Type 304L) fabricated by the laser engineered net shaping (LENS®) process. The samples were hydrogen charged (H-charged) and subsequently cut and polished. The surface contact potential difference (CPD) of the samples was measured using the KPFM technique, a form of atomic force microscopy. A set of uncharged samples was also studied for reference and changes in the CPD were on the noise level. For H-charged samples fabricated by the LENS® process, the resulting surface potential images show a change in CPD of about 10 – 20mV around cell-like boundaries (5–10 μm in size) and grain boundaries (50–100 μm in size). The significant change in the CPD is affected by variation of the local work function, which indicates the presence of hydrogen. The elemental composition of the LENS® samples was studied using energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) which showed an increase in the atomic percentage of Cr and a decrease in Ni around the cell-like boundaries. The existence of intercellular ferrite on the sub-grain boundaries may explain the propensity of hydrogen to segregate around these regions. The finer grain structure of LENS® samples compared to that of forged or welded samples suggests that the hydrogen can be dispersed differently throughout this material than in traditionally forged austenitic SS. This study is conducted to elucidate the behavior of hydrogen with respect to the microstructure of additively manufactured stainless steel alloys.

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