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  Investigation of hydrogen embrittlement of steels for the hydrogen transport energy future

   School of Engineering

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  Dr Alasdair Charles  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Hydrogen embrittlement (HE), the loss of the ductility due to the diffusion of atomic hydrogen in steels, has major consequences in pipelines. HE results in rapid cracking that makes it hard to detect and repair, posing a major threat for pipeline integrity. HE has been studied for more than a century, and yet the behaviour of hydrogen in steels has not been completely understood. In addition, the proposed mechanisms can only partially explain the experimental findings [1].         

Computational Materials Science is becoming a very important tool, thanks to the availability of modern computing facilities which allow modelling of a great number of atoms for longer periods of time compared with two decades ago. Such advances in computing capabilities result in more accurate simulations [2], allowing major savings in the design of materials such as pipeline steel. The study of hydrogen embrittlement using computational tools is relatively novel and has an enormous potential to contribute to the understanding of the hydrogen embrittlement mechanisms. 


Hydrogen Embrittlement (HE) of High Strength Steels will be studied using a combination of computational and laboratory techniques. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations will be performed to study hydrogen adsorption in pipeline steel, calculate elastic constants and estimate diffusion coefficients of hydrogen. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations will be carried out to elucidate crack initiation and propagation in different microstructures, and to study embrittlement. Tensile tests will be conducted on hydrogen-charged samples (cathodically or thermally charged) to evaluate the influence of HE on mechanical properties. Metallography, Optical Microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) will be used to examine the microstructure, grain boundaries; to study crack morphology, crack growth of HE failed samples and validate numerical results. The combination of techniques will provide a novel approach to elucidate the nature of HE in steels and help establish if the current gas transmission network could be used for hydrogen-rich gas transport in the future. 

Newcastle University is committed to being a fully inclusive Global University which actively recruits, supports and retains colleagues from all sectors of society.  We value diversity as well as celebrate, support and thrive on the contributions of all our employees and the communities they represent.  We are proud to be an equal opportunities employer and encourage applications from everybody, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender identity, marital status/civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, as well as being open to flexible working practices. 


  1. D. Hardie, E.A. Charles, A.H. Lopez, Hydrogen embrittlement of high strength pipeline steels, Corrosion Science, Volume 48, Issue 12, 2006, Pages 4378-4385, ISSN 0010-938X  
  2. Oila, A., Lung, C. & Bull, S. J Mater Sci (2014) 49: 2383. 

Application enquiries: 

to Dr Alasdair Charles,  [Email Address Removed], 

Engineering (12) Materials Science (24)
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 About the Project