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Development of Friction Stir Welding (FSW) for Hydrogen Fuel Storage Tanks

Project Code: 34741

Start date and planned duration: January 2022, 12 months


  • Establish the feasibility of joining circumferential and longitudinal butt joints in thin-walled aluminium using FSW to manufacture tank liners. Develop FSW as a high quality, robust and reliable alternative to TIG. Improve cost, function and safety of hydrogen storage tanks.
  • Outline a new design and manufacturing approach concept    for FSW tooling/ jigging to enable large-scale manufacture of aluminium tank liners.
  • Remain at the forefront of advanced FSW particularly for hydrogen storage technologies and increase TWIs capability to assist members with enquiries regarding FSW of thin-walled aluminium tanks.
  • Progress TWI and its Members’ standing in the green economy and the push towards net zero.
  • Define appropriate wall thickness, tank dimension and alloys for subsequent projects and demonstrators.

Project Outline

Hydrogen is now recognised as the most promising source of energy to achieve zero carbon emission travel, and is considered as an environmentally friendly source to produce electric power. However, a number of authorities recognise that significant research and development is required to mature hydrogen as the fuel of choice for transportation and power in the first half of this century.

The energy sector is looking to develop transportable hydrogen storage options. Whilst the use of hydrogen as a source of energy has been proven academically, one of the key enabling factors for further industrial uptake is the capability to mass-produce, large-scale, storage vessels. Carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) vessels lined with thin walled aluminium could offer a lightweight solution for storing hydrogen.

There is an increasing need to develop a reliable, consistent, high quality joining process for thin-walled aluminium liners that can be automated and employed for large-scale manufacture of hydrogen storage vessels. Combined with a reduced aluminium liner thickness, friction stir welding (FSW) could contribute to improve the viability of hydrogen storage solutions by reducing vessel weight, improving joint strength and its damage tolerance, whilst ensuring short and long-term cost savings.

This Core Research Project (CRP) would endeavour to develop the capability of manufacturing thin-walled aluminium liners for lightweight CFRP hydrogen storage tanks, using FSW. While primarily focused on hydrogen storage tanks, the results will have applicability and be scalable for various liquid and gas storage, transport and use. This project is for a continuation of feasibility work which started in Q3 2021 on CRP project 34459.

Industry Sectors

-      Aerospace

-      Automotive

-      Space

-      Oil & Gas

-      Power 

 Benefits to Industry

  • This project will work towards enabling broader adaptation of FSW for joining even thinner-walled aluminium liners, for this future high volume market.
  • The capability to join thin aluminium sheet using FSW will be developed aiming to deliver consistency and high quality. This is increasing the process maturity, thereby benefiting TWI Members seeking to de-risk and adopt the technology.
  • FSW is a machine tool based process giving great possibilities for automation and digital integration, hence helping to mature not only the process, but also its place in the digital/Industry 4.0 domain.

Click here to view the project webinar*

*Industrial Members only, login required. Click here to register


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