Cold Embrittlement

Hydrogen in liquid phase (LH2) is classified as a cryogenic liquid. The cryogenic temperature can affect structural materials. With decreasing temperature, ultimate stress and yield stress increase for most metals, generally connected with a corresponding drop in fracture toughness which is a measure of the material's ability to resist crack propagation. The lower the toughness, the smaller is the tolerable crack length. A material can change from ductile to brittle behaviour as soon as the temperature falls below its "nil-ductility-temperature", which is sometimes considerably higher than the cryogenic temperature. It is a particular problem in cryogenic equipment exposed to periodic temperature of the cryogen. Several accidents with failure of a cryogenic storage tank have been traced to originate from cold embrittlement, for example the severe accident with the rupture of a 4250 m3 LNG tank in Cleveland, 1944 [56].

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