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Advanced Manufacturing

Measuring Barrier Coating Permeability for Hydrogen Fuel Infrastructure

Company Name: GVD Corporation
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: Cambridge, MA
Email: Scott Morrison, Principal Scientist;
Award Amount: $150,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Fuel cell vehicles require dedicated fueling infrastructure as robust as today’s ubiquitous gas-filling stations. Building this infrastructure requires addressing reliability problems in hydrogen compression, storage, and delivery infrastructure. For example, the plastic and elastomer seals employed in hydrogen systems can become brittle and weak as they are exposed to hydrogen, leading to leaks. Technicians must then replace weakened seals, leading to significant labor and downtime costs. Thus, there is an urgent need for improved polymer seals that can withstand extreme temperature (-40°C to 200°C) and high pressure (more than 875 bar) to enable reliable operation of hydrogen systems.

GVD Corporation is developing a barrier coating that can dramatically reduce gas permeation that can degrade seals. Developing the coating technology requires accurate measurement of hydrogen permeability into plastic and elastomer seal materials. Working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Pressure Temperature Cycling apparatus will allow the company to measure the uptake of high-pressure hydrogen in coated and non-coated elastomer samples. This information will enable GVD Corporation to better tailor and modify its thin barrier coating for minimal hydrogen permeation.


In GVD’s process, flexible barrier coatings are fabricated from the vapor-phase and are grown directly on the surface of the plastic or elastomer seal. The chemistry and architecture of these flexible coatings are engineered to dramatically inhibit gas permeation while ensuring durability during repeated loading applications and preserving the mechanical properties of the underlying elastomer seal. The company aims to develop coating formulations that can produce a ten-fold or more reduction in permeability. In addition to its research and testing at ORNL, GVD will also work with commercial seals and compressor manufacturer partners to produce and test prototype seals for hydrogen compressors in the lab and in the field.


Perfecting hydrogen fuel cell technology can open up an entire new class of vehicle manufacturing and a new supply stream for fuels. Improving existing hydrogen infrastructure can also create efficiencies for fleet managers and fuel station operators.

Hydrogen can be produced cleanly and sustainably, so greater reliance on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could help significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

Alternative fuels are a critical supply-side method for reducing U.S. dependency on global oil markets.

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