Supraparticles - more safety in handling hydrogen

Indicator additives for a safe hydrogen economy


In the future, so-called green hydrogen produced with renewable energy is to become the key building block for a more sustainable and climate-friendly energy economy. For the realization of a hydrogen economy, the safety aspect in particular represents a major challenge. Hydrogen gas, which is to be used almost everywhere as a flexible energy carrier, cannot be perceived with human senses. However, it is highly flammable and explosive in air, as historical events (fire of the zeppelin "Hindenburg" in 1937) prove.
In order to increase safety within the complex hydrogen infrastructure, researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have researched the basic functional mechanisms for a novel hydrogen sensor, based on a concept developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg.


How can working with H2 become safer?

Smart gasochromic additive makes H2 visible for the bare eye


© AK Mandel / FAU

The patented hydrogen indicator consists of inexpensive, microscale particles, so-called supraparticles. Without electricity and complex measuring equipment, this makes invisible hydrogen visible to the bare eye. Hydrogen indicators can detect highly specific even low concentrations of the gas, e.g. in the event of leaks in a gas pipeline, so that appropriate measures can be initiated.

LEVEL 1 (purple): Original condition before contact with H2.

LEVEL 2 (pink): Upon first contact with H2, the particles initially show an irreversible color change reaction (recording) within seconds.

LEVEL 3 (colorless):
Upon further exposure to H2, a reversible color change reaction takes place (monitoring). As soon as no more H2 is present, the color switches back to stage 2 within seconds.

Particulate powder makes hydrogen visible

Real-time demonstration

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© Fraunhofer ISC / FAU

Small dose with huge impact

A decisive advantage of the novel hydrogen sensor is its small size, which enables a wide range of application possibilities, e.g. as an additive in coatings. In addition, it exhibits fast response times and is thus capable of recording a hydrogen exposure without a power supply and complex measurement technology. This can be tracked in real time with the bare eye, which in particular enables rapid leak detection and localization.



  • Real-time monitoring and irreversible recording of hydrogen exposure with distinct, eye-readable color change: Rapid detection and localization of H2 leaks without the use of electronics.
  • Nearly universal micron-scale additive: Safety additive for any application site.
  • Toolbox-like manufacturing approach: customized hydrogen indicators (e.g., adjustable sensitivity, response time, gas indication color changes) for different applications.
  • Scalable and industrially established manufacturing process based largely on low-cost precursors: Large-scale application of H2 indicator additives.


  • Indication of low H2 concentrations
  • Real-time indication enables fast leak detection
  • Recording of hydrogen exposure enables fast and precise leak localization
  • No power supply necessary and therefore no ignition source as risk factor (explosion protection)
  • Works without complex measurement technology
  • Versatile use and application: Additive for paints, directly sprayable, for large surfaces, inaccessible areas, safety equipment and many more
  • Adaptable for other gases
  • Coupling with optical sensors or safety systems possible (remote sensing)

Application areas

  • Safety additive for components with complex geometry, e.g. pipes, flanges or valves
  • Increased occupational safety due to gasochromic pigments that can be directly integrated into work clothing (e.g. gloves)
  • Maintenance of installations
    • Offshore
    • Remote onshore
    • Indoor
  • Safety system at hydrogen filling stations and in vehicles