Machine components in the fuel cell vehicle and related hydrogen infrastructures are operating within high pressure hydrogen gas. Especially, polymer seals used in gas compressors and regulator valves should be articulating against their metal counter face in pressurized hydrogen gas. However, the effect of high pressure hydrogen gas on tribological behavior of sliding surfaces has not been identified yet. In this study, effects of the pressurized hydrogen gas environment on wear behavior of polymeric sealing materials were examined by exposing polymer specimens and their sliding counterface to the high pressure hydrogen gas prior to the wear test. Unfilled polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and 15% graphite filled PTFE were tested as representative polymer sealing materials and 316L austenitic stainless steel was used as a sliding counterface. Results of X-ray photoelectron spectrometer (XPS) analysis of the exposed stainless surface indicated that metal oxides in the surface passive layer of 316L stainless steel could be reduced to some extent by high pressure hydrogen. Increased metal contents of the stainless surface enhanced the development of polymer transfer film and consequently lower the specific wear rate of PTFE and PTFE composites.

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