While it is well known that during RCF tests the formation of nascent catalytic sites on the wear track can break down hydrocarbon molecules to release atomic hydrogen, the potential of the hydrogen environment in fuel cells to hydrocrack the hydrocarbon lubricant in high pressure rolling contacts has so far been ignored. Here we investigate for the first time the ability of the hydrogen environment to generate a chemical tribofilm on the wear track most likely through lubricant hydrocracking, as compared with argon and air environments. Despite the ability of the hydrogen environment to generate a notably larger amount of atomic hydrogen, the chemical tribofilm significantly prevents the formation of atomic hydrogen and its subsequent diffusion through the lattice of steel rolling element bearings. This is of great importance in the lubrication of hydrogen technology and the prevention of Hydrogen embrittlement (HE). An investigation into the prospects of high energy micro-computed-tomography (Micro-CT) as a non-destructive technique for sub-surface damage characterisation in RCF was comparatively performed alongside traditional sectioning methods.
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