Hydrogen is projected to play an important role in a future carbon-neutral society. As a mixture of hydrogen and air can be explosive under certain conditions, hydrogen sensors that can identify the tiniest leaks will be pivotal for the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. As part of the European Horizon 2020 project OVERLEAF with ten academic and industry partners we are developing a fuel tank for hydrogen powered aircraft. The role of TU Delft in the project is to develop a proof-of-principle optical hydrogen sensor that can in the future be used around such a hydrogen tank on board of an aircraft.
In this project, we combine the expertise of two different faculties within Delft University of Technology to create such a proof-of-principle hydrogen sensor: the Faculty of Aerospace has expertise on fibre optic sensing and the Faculty of Applied Sciences on optical hydrogen sensing materials. The project consists of three main parts:
(1) Measure existing hydrogen sensing materials under conditions relevant to aviation (e.g. low temperatures) and develop new materials if required. While many materials have been developed for room temperature applications, at present these materials have not been measured at low temperatures. This part will mainly be experimental and will involve the deposition of the thin film materials with a thickness of tens of nanometres (magneton sputtering) and testing/analysis of the materials under various conditions (temperature, hydrogen concentration) with optical and structural measurements (for example X-ray diffraction)
(2) Creating and testing a fibre-optic hydrogen sensing with the developed hydrogen sensing materials such as a fibre Bragg grating or a micro-mirror sensor. The fibres will be coated with the developed hydrogen sensing materials, which will have a thickness of tens of nanometres. This part of the project will be a combination of modelling the fibre optical system and experimentally realising the most optimal configuration.
(3) Constructing a proof-of-principle prototype sensor that can be used as a portable demonstrator. This part will be a combination of experiments and engineering.
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