Hydrogen repartitioning and the related embrittlement behavior were characterized by studying Al–Zn–Mg–Cu aluminum alloys with different intermetallic particle contents. Using high-resolution X-ray tomography and related microstructural tracking techniques, hydrogen-induced quasi-cleavage cracks and the related strain localization were observed regardless of the content of the intermetallic particles. The area of quasi-cleavage cracks on the fracture surface increased and the strain localization became more intense with a decrease in the content of intermetallic particles, thereby revealing that trapped hydrogen at intermetallic particles increases the resistance to hydrogen embrittlement. In addition, a quantitative assessment of the hydrogen repartitioning taking into account vacancy production and dislocation multiplication during deformation, was applied to characterize the hydrogen embrittlement behavior. Because of the thermal equilibrium among various hydrogen trap sites, internal hydrogen atoms are mainly repartitioned to vacancies and precipitates in the strain localization region during deformation because of their high trap site densities and high hydrogen trap binding energies. Since the concentration of hydrogen trapped at dislocations is extremely limited, it can be assumed that hydrogen repartitioned to precipitates induces decohesion of precipitates along specific crystallographic planes, where quasi-cleavage cracking may originate.
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