Safe and efficient hydrogen storage and distribution are key attributes to realizing hydrogen as an alternative energy carrier to traditional fossil fuels. To this end, cryogenic liquid and cryo-compressed gaseous hydrogen are considered high energy density alternatives to ambient temperature gas. However, these alternatives have significant material demands to overcome extreme temperature (20 K) and pressure (700 bar) as well as hydrogen effects. Austenitic stainless steels are widely used for cryogenic pressure vessels owing to relatively high ductility even at 4 K. However, the influence of hydrogen on mechanical properties at cryogenic temperatures has rarely been studied. In this study, the tensile properties of 304L austenitic stainless steel with internal hydrogen were evaluated at 20 K, 77 K, and 113 K. Test specimens were saturated with internal hydrogen to concentration of 140 wtppm in a high pressure environment at elevated temperature, a process called thermal precharging. While lower temperature in known to increase strength properties and reduced elongation at fracture, the presence of internal hydrogen increased both strength and elongation at fracture, but reduced ductility. Magnetic evaluation of the uniformly strained region of the test specimens suggest that hydrogen mitigates the strain-induced transformation to α’-martensite. Brittle fracture features and secondary cracking indicative of hydrogen embrittlement were observed on the fracture surfaces of hydrogen-precharged specimens, which is consistent with the loss of ductility.

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