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Light, strong and abundant, aluminum and its alloys are widely used in constructions, consumer electronics, and for vehicles including cars, ships, and aerospace. In this video, HUAN ZHAO explores a phenomenon which results in the weakening of these materials, hydrogen embrittlement. Employing cryogenic-transfer atom probe tomography, Zhao is able to provide a three dimensional analysis of how hydrogen is located within the aluminum alloys’ microstructure. Identifying grain boundaries as a key site for hydrogen embrittlement, the research highlights possible strategies to both better understand and counteract material’s failure.


Huan Zhao is a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institut für Eisenforschung, where she completed her PhD (2019). Her research focuses on hydrogen embrittlement and corrosion as well as grain boundary separation and congregation in aluminum alloys. In 2020, Zhou received the early career researcher award from the ICAA and in 2022, she won the Masing Memorial Prize, awarded by the German Society for Materials Science (DSM).


Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung

Novel alloys for automotive lightweight design and airplane turbines, materials for sustainable energy conversion and storage, and the development of big data and machine learning methods – these are just a few examples of the research areas that are being investigated by the scientists of the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung. The team of engineers, material scientists, physicists, and chemists develops tailored materials and methods for mobility, energy, infrastructure, and information. To this end, the researchers study complex materials with atomic precision under real environmental conditions.
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Original publication

Hydrogen trapping and embrittlement in high-strength Al alloys

Zhao Huan, Chakraborty Poulami, Ponge Dirk, Hickel Tilmann, Sun Binhan, Wu Chun-Hung, Gault Baptiste and Raabe Dierk
Published in 2022