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topic 59702

Can citric acid solution cause hydrogen embrittlement?



September 18, 2014

Q. For high strength steel springs (Rockwell C of 40) would a 2% solution of citric acid measuring a pH of 6 cause hydrogen embrittlement? The intention is to use this solution for polishing.

Michael Formberg
- Chardon, Ohio USA


meher baba courtesy of Wikipedia
September 22, 2014

A. Please take a look at the discussions on Letter 1216 et seq. and particularly my response of 11/26/13. For there to be unrelieved hydrogen embrittlement, there needs to be some sealing of the hydrogen into the steel. Since there is not in your case, any hydrogen will self-relieve. Besides, citric acid is a very weak acid and the amount of hydrogen will be very small. As Bobby McFerrin said (from Meher Baba) "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

tom_rochester
Tom Rochester
Plating Systems & Technologies, Inc.  
supporting advertiser
Jackson, Michigan, USA
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September 24, 2014

A. I have no specific information on hydrogen embrittlement with citric acid but I am inclined to go with Tom.

But I do have an observation on pH. I am a little surprised to find 2% citric acid giving a pH of 6. I have seen DI water near that. From a quick back of envelope/guess, I would expect to find a pH in the range of about 2 - 3.

How do you measure pH?

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England


affil. link
pH Paper

October 20, 2014

Q. Thank you Tom! That discussion is very interesting and seems to pertain to my situation. Appreciate the feedback.

Geoff - To check the pH I used test strips from Hydrion. The citric acid had a pH of 3-4 before diluting with water. Once diluted with water to a 2% solution it had a pH of 6.

Michael Formberg
- Chardon, Ohio USA

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