Design of Alloys for the Hydrogen Economy

steel alloy viewed in a microscope and appearing as splashes of colors

Microscopic structure of a crack growing in a steel alloy. Different colors come from the different crystals in the material, revealed using electron backscatter diffraction microscopy. The black bar in the lower left is approximately half the diameter of a human hair. Image from V.A. Yardley, S. Fahimi, and E.J. Payton, Materials Science and Technology (2015).

Hydrogen has enormous potential to reduce greenhouse emissions from heavy industry and manufacturing. The Department of Energy is investing billions of dollars to bring hydrogen innovations to market and create clean energy jobs in the United States. A major hurdle to taking advantage of hydrogen, however, is that it embrittles the pipes and storage vessels that are needed to contain it. Our adoption of sustainable hydrogen requires new hydrogen-tolerant alloys to be engineered for long-term service. To date, alloys for hydrogen environment resistance have always been designed by modifying stainless steels or aerospace-grade Ni-based superalloys. A new understanding of the role hydrogen plays in embrittlement of metals has emerged, and along with it comes the opportunity to design and test new alloys based on recent revelations. In this project, the student will contribute to the design and development of new alloys for hydrogen resistance.

Students will gain exposure to:

  • Melting and processing of metals
  • Prediction of solidification behavior and microstructure of alloys using commercial software packages
  • Operation of an electron microscope
  • Mechanical testing of materials
  • Scientific methods for alloy development
  • Industrial-academic collaborations to solve significant challenges for sustainability
  • Conducting a literature review
Headshot of Eric Payton

Eric Payton

Associate Professor, CEAS - Materials Science & Engineering

627 Rhodes Hall


Dr. Payton’s laboratory addresses the sustainability of critical materials through fundamental research into alloy design, discovery, and processing, enabling design engineers to balance performance with responsible resource utilization. Employing state-of-the-art computational and quantitative characterization techniques, his group seeks to lend insights into microstructure evolution during processing and chemo-mechanical environmental interactions in service, then use this knowledge to develop practical tools for predicting material properties. Prior to joining the faculty of the University of Cincinnati in 2022, Dr. Payton served for five years as the Research Leader for the Metallic Materials and Processing Team at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. Before entering government service, he was an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and held post-doctoral positions at both Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany and the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) in Berlin, Germany. He obtained his doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering from The Ohio State University. Dr. Payton’s colleagues suspect he would be a good addition to their trivia night team; however, his area of trivia mastery may be limited to turn-of-the century musicians. Dr. Payton is an enthusiastic advocate of scientific collaboration, structured programming, learner-centered pedagogy, and vegetables.