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In-Situ Investigation of Cavity Nucleation and Growth in Hydrogen-Exposed EPDM during Decompression

Abstract : The optimum design and formulation of seals used in hydrogen transport system is crucial for the purposes of safety of operation and well as economic sustainability of hydrogen as energy carrier. The exposure of the sealing materials to hydrogen and subsequent decompression causes cavitation damage. The studies so far on this subject have been few due to the strong limitations arising from the safety issues related to hydrogen testing in laboratory conditions. This study addresses the cavitation in Ethylene Propylene Diene Rubber (EPDM) due to pressure release after exposure to high-pressure hydrogen up to 30 MPa. Three different unfilled EPDM with variable cross-link density were investigated. The study was based on some of the newest in-situ experimental techniques which allow a time-resolved tracking of the evolution of damage. On one side, in-situ SAXS (Small Angle X-ray Scattering) tests of hydrogen-exposed EPDM were aimed at the characterisation of EPDM at submicron scale as a function of network heterogeneity and for tracking the possible onset of distinguishable cavities. At the low pressure range accessible with the device, heterogeneities were not marked enough to define more than a correlation length that was significantly changed compared the unexposed material, whatever the cross-link density. After the exposure at higher pressure (30 MPa) a change in correlation length was observed corresponding to the change in heterogeneity of the matrix which was found to be non-reversible even after full desorption of the sample. At a higher scale, in-situ X-ray tomography was used to provide time-resolved 3D views of damage during and after hydrogen pressure release. These experiments provided insight into the growth kinetics of cavities in different local boundary conditions (within the bulk, close to other cavities, close to a free surface) correlated with the diffusion characteristics of the sample itself. Classification of cavities as bulk and edges cavities was possible with respect with different kinetics depending on their proximity to the free surface of the sample. This could be correlated with the diffusion characteristics of the material. The dependence of kinetics of cavities on the proximity of another cavity was found to be trivial at the scale investigated (above 30 μm between cavity borders) suggesting that growth is a very local process. The previous studies have clarified that the cavitation in rubber is a coupled diffuso-mechanical phenomenon and so far, the numerical tools available have not addressed the problem as such. Therefore, the development of a numerical tool aimed at solving such coupled problems has also been addressed in the present work. This numerical tool called Foxtrot, developed at Institut PPRIME, is in the early stages of development but is a crucial step towards the more realistic simulation of this phenomenon of cavitation. In this fully coupled diffuso-mechanical context, the interpretation of mechanisms is highly limited by the lack of experimental access to the mechanical and gas content fields. Commercial Finite Element codes face convergence problems that the internal code developed at the Pprime Institute (Foxtrot) is trying to overcome. In the last exploratory part of the thesis, the code was used to as a step towards a more realistic simulation of the phenomenon. In particular, gradients around a pair of cavities were compared to those obtained around an isolated cavity.
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Mahak Fazal. In-Situ Investigation of Cavity Nucleation and Growth in Hydrogen-Exposed EPDM during Decompression. Other. ISAE-ENSMA Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et d'Aérotechique - Poitiers, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019ESMA0017⟩. ⟨tel-03411094⟩

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