This is a great opportunity for us to develop our fatigue testing of composite materials, and to work in collaboration with a team of experienced partners in an exciting R&D project. 
Dr Tony Franks, R-TECH Materials Director

The project team comprises:

  • R-TECH Services Ltd, part of the R-TECH Materials, a group of materials testing, analysis and consultancy businesses;
  • engineering and materials research institute TWI;
  • Pancom, a specialist in acoustic emission services and sensors; and
  • Arcola Energy, a manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cell systems.

R-TECH Services will use its mechanical testing facilities to generate defects in composite tank sections and characterise them using optical, digital and electron microscopy equipment. These defects will then be used to help partner companies develop the sensing and data analysis requirements for the sensor system.

The project aim is to develop a continuous monitoring sensor unit for vehicle hydrogen tanks, whose record can be read at each vehicle service. This will greatly reduce failure probabilities, through early detection of hydrogen embrittlement, fatigue defects and diffusion leakage.

Renewable energy

The £300,000 award for this project comes from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB)'s funding competition 'Unlocking the Hydrogen Energy Market.'

Hydrogen is a renewable energy supply that is returned to its source, water, in the process of generating energy. Given recent advances in fuel cell technology, it is an attractive option as a mass market transport fuel. However, to reach such a market, the confidence of both the public and safety regulatory needs to be gained. Specifically, hydrogen tank failure probabilities on vehicles will need to be orders of magnitude less than those in existing industrial hydrogen usage.

The TSB has agreed to fund 70% of the total project costs, expected to be almost £430,000 over the 24-month project life.