Advanced Carbon Fibre Composites for Liquid Hydrogen Storage

September 18th, 2023

R&D Focus Areas:
Liquid hydrogen, Nanomaterials, Materials modelling

Lead Organisation:
The University of New South Wales (UNSW)

The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), Omni Tanker Pty Ltd


Start date:
January 2019

Completion date:
Estimated December 2025

Key contacts:
Chief Investigator: Scientia Professor Chun Wang –
Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Garth Pearce –
Research Associate: Dr Wenkai Chang –
Research Associate: Dr Feng Huang –

AUD$478,000 – Australian Research Council’s Discovery Grant Program (DP230101204)
AUD$510,000 – Australian Research Council’s Discovery Grant Program (DP190102790)
AUD$150,000 – NSW Space Research Network (SRN)

Project total cost:
AUD$1,138,000 – cash contribution

Project summary description:
Carbon fibre composite tanks are emerging as a tremendous opportunity for energy-efficient storage of liquid hydrogen (LH2) as they offer potential weight savings relative to existing metal tanks or composite-wrapped metal tanks. However, the formation of through-thickness cracks in carbon fibre composites at the ultracold LH2 temperature remains the most significant challenge to the use of all-composite hydrogen tanks, as the microcracks cause leakages of hydrogen and reduce structural integrity.

This project aims to develop innovative technologies to enhance the performance of carbon fibre composites to withstand thermal-mechanical loading at the cryogenic LH2 temperature without suffering from transverse matrix cracking and ply splitting.

Innovative technologies include:

  • nanomaterials technology to toughen advanced carbon fibre composites, e.g., through the incorporation of multiple nanomaterials in the epoxy matrix to increase their fracture toughness at cryogenic temperatures, and
  • ply-thickness engineering to suppress the growth of microcracks by hybridising standard-ply and thin-ply composites to achieve optimum anti-leakage properties at LH2 temperature.

This project also develops a physics-based multi-scale computational model spanning nanoscale to macroscale to understand the mechanisms and to quantify the effectiveness of the various toughening strategies, with a view of developing design tools for hybrid composites at cryogenic LH2 temperature.

Related publications and key links:
W. Chang, L.R.F. Rose, M.S. Islam, S. Wu, S. Peng, F. Huang, A.J. Kinloch, C.H. Wang, Strengthening and toughening epoxy polymer at cryogenic temperature using cupric oxide nanorods, Composites Science and Technology, 208 (2021), p. 108762.

W. Chang, L.R.F. Rose, S. Wu, A.J. Kinloch, C.H. Wang, Increasing crack growth resistance for through-thickness matrix cracking and its role in suppressing ply cracking in thin-ply laminates, Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 163 (2022), p. 107219.

M.S. Islam, L.F. Benninger, G. Pearce, C.H. Wang, Toughening carbon fibre composites at cryogenic temperatures using low-thermal expansion nanoparticles, Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 150 (2021) 106613.

M.S. Islam, W. Chang, Z. Sha, J. Wang, S. Wu, L.R.F. Rose, A.J. Kinloch, C.H. Wang, Mitigating cryogenic microcracking in carbon-fibre reinforced polymer composites using negative thermal-expansion nanoparticles functionalised by a polydopamine coating, Composites Part B: Engineering, 257 (2023) 110676.

W. Chang, L.R.F. Rose, S. Wu, A.J. Kinloch, C.H. Wang, Through-thickness crack growth resistance in fibre composites and its role in preventing ply cracking in cross-ply laminates, Engineering Archive, (2022).

W. Chang, C.H. Wang, Lightweight All-Composite Vessels for the Storage of Liquid Hydrogen: Nano-Micromechanical Analysis of Microcracking and Toughening Technologies, The 2023 Japan-Australia-China-Korea-Singapore (JACKS) hydrogen forum, 9 – 10 August 2023, Sydney, Australia.

C.H. Wang, Nano-micromechanical analysis of the fibre reinforced composites’ growth resistance to through-thickness matrix cracking, 12th Asian-Australasian Conference on Composite Materials (ACCM12), 25 – 28 April 2023
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 C.H. Wang, Multiscale composites for cryogenic liquid hydrogen fuel tank, 17th Pacific Polymer Conference, 11 – 14 December 2022, Brisbane, Australia. Program – PPC 17

C.H. Wang, Mechanics of toughening carbon fibre composites for super cold applications, 19th Australian International Aerospace Congress (AIAC) and 10th Australasian Congress on Applied Mechanics (ACAM), 29 November – 1 December 2021, Sydney, Australia.
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Islam, M., Chang, W., Pearce, G., Djukic, L., Benninger, L., & Wang, C. (2022). Multiscale composites for cryogenic liquid hydrogen fuel tank. In PACIFIC POLYMER CONFERENCE (PPC17) 2022. Brisbane, Australia

Pearce, G. (2019, September 26). Design of a Linerless Carbon Fibre Composite Pressure Vessel for Cryogenic Fuel Tank Applications. In Hydrogen Liquefaction and Storage Symposium. University of Western Australia, Perth.

Islam, M., Pearce, G., Djukic, L., Benninger, L., & Wang, C. (2019). Development of multiscale toughening technique to address the micro-cracking problem of composites at cryogenic temperature. In TWENTY-SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON COMPOSITE MATERIALS (ICCM22). Melbourne, Australia.

Higher degree studies supported:
Three PhD students at UNSW are supported by this project, one of whom has already completed. The project provides training opportunities for higher degree by research students to develop expertise and gain research experience in epoxy polymers and nanomaterials, design, fabrication, and characterisation of composites materials. Researchers also learn skills in computational simulation of the properties (e.g., multi-scale modelling) of hybrid composites.


September 2023