Hydrogen has proven to be a significant element in the development of sustainable power generation. Its abundance and non-toxicity are ideal for industrial and commercial use, but hydrogen has many qualities that make it challenging to work with.
Hydrogen’s low volumetric energy density means it takes up a lot of space. To store hydrogen in its natural state in the quantities needed for most industrial applications would be impractical. One solution to this problem is to compress the gas and store it in highly pressurized tanks, but this serves to make the gas more difficult to contain and control, and far more prone to leaking. The fact that hydrogen is naturally colorless, tasteless and odorless makes leaks difficult to discern. Amplifying the danger of an imperceptible hydrogen leak is the fact that this gas is highly combustible. All of this underscores the importance of using the right seals when working with hydrogen gas.
The Right Seals
Keeping things from leaking is what Stein Seal Industrial does better than anyone. Stein Seal Industrial is at the forefront of hydrogen seal design, with patented innovations that have transformed the use of hydrogen in power generation and other industrial applications.
Hydrogen seals play a critical role in preventing the leakage of hydrogen gas from one area to another in various applications, such as hydrogen storage, fuel cells, and hydrogen pipelines. The design and materials chosen for hydrogen seals are crucial to their effectiveness and safe usage.
When Stein Seal Industrial engineers are challenged to attain a result not possible with current technologies, innovations inevitably follow. The company’s patented Hydrovent™ and Hydroload™ generator hydrogen seals were developed to solve oil ingress, shaft movement at start-up, and other issues inherent to traditional generator hydrogen sealing systems.
Designing the right seal requires consideration of multiple factors that are unique to each application. Stein engineers look at pressure and temperature conditions, ease of seal maintenance and replacement, and material compatibility, among others, to arrive at the correct solution for every application.
Mechanical seals for use with hydrogen must be carefully selected, as many of materials most often used for industrial seals are incompatible with the properties of hydrogen. Using the wrong material in your hydrogen seal can result in diminished efficiency and productivity, leakage, or seal failure. This applies to any application where hydrogen is present, be it storage, transport, or operational usage.
Because hydrogen’s tiny molecular structure allows it to permeate many materials, seal selection is critical to minimizing leakage. Materials chosen must be compatible with one another as well. Any incompatibility amongst materials in the system could lead to a chemical reaction that could compromise the seal integrity.
SEAL MATERIALS COMPATIBLE WITH HYDROGEN
Metals: Certain metals like stainless steel, copper and Aluminum alloys
Polymers: High-performance polymers like PTFE, PEEK, and polyimides
Elastomers: Specialty elastomers, like hydrogenated nitrile rubber or fluorocarbon rubber
Ceramics: Ceramics and ceramic composites
Coatings: Thin, hydrogen-resistant coatings