Polymer-Nanoparticle Hybrid Materials for Plasmonic Hydrogen Detection
Doctoral thesis, 2021

Plasmonic metal nanoparticles and polymer materials have independently undergone rapid development during the last two decades. More recently, it has been realized that combining these two systems in a hybrid or nanocomposite material comprised of plasmonically active metal nanoparticles dispersed in a polymer matrix leads to systems that exhibit fascinating properties, and some first attempts had been made to exploit them for optical spectroscopy, solar cells or even pure art. In my thesis, I have applied this concept to tackle the urgent problem of hydrogen safety by developing Pd nanoparticle-based “plasmonic plastic” hybrid materials, and by using them as the active element in optical hydrogen sensors. This is motivated by the fact that hydrogen gas, which constitutes a clean and sustainable energy vector, poses a risk for severe accidents due to its high flammability when mixed with air.

Therefore, hydrogen leak detection systems are compulsory in the imminent large-scale dissemination of hydrogen energy technologies. To date, however, there a several unresolved challenges in terms of hydrogen sensor performance, whereof too slow sensor response/recovery times and insufficient resistance towards deactivation by poisoning species are two of the most severe ones.

In this thesis, I have therefore applied the plasmonic plastic hybrid material concept to tackle these challenges. In summary, I have (i) developed hysteresis-free plasmonic hydrogen sensors based on PdAu, PdCu and PdAuCu alloy nanoparticles; (ii) demonstrated ultrafast sensor response and stable sensor operation in chemically challenging environments using polymer coatings; (iii) introduced bulk-processed and 3D printed plasmonic plastic hydrogen sensors with fast response and high resistance against poisoning and deactivation.








hybrid material


Zoom meeting (password request: nisara@chalmers.se)
Opponent: Prof. Torben Rene Jensen. Aarhus University. Denmark.


Iwan Darmadi

Chalmers, Physics, Chemical Physics

I. Darmadi, S. Zulfa Khairunnisa, D. Tomeček and C. Langhammer. Systematic Composition Optimization of PdAuCu Ternary Alloy Nanoparticles for Plasmonic Hydrogen Sensing

Metal–polymer hybrid nanomaterials for plasmonic ultrafast hydrogen detection

Nature Materials,; Vol. 18(2019)p. 489-495

Journal article

I. Östergren*, A. M. Pourrahimi*, I. Darmadi*, R. R. da Silva, A. Stolaś, S. Lerch, B. Berke, M. Liebi, M. Minelli, K. Moth-Poulsen, C. Langhammer and C. Müller. A Highly Hydrogen Permeable Fluorinated Polymer-Pd Nanoparticle Nanocomposite for Plasmonic Hydrogen Sensing

S. Lerch, A. Stolaś, I. Darmadi, X. Wen, M. Strach, C. Langhammer, K. Moth-Poulsen. Colloidal Synthesis of Palladium-Gold Alloy Nanoparticles for Hydrogen Sensing

How Colorful Metal Nanoparticles May Ensure the Safety of Hydrogen-Fueled Vehicles!

Metallic nanoparticles have been used since medieval times to stain glass. One can see such beautiful pieces of art in old church windows, for example. Their bright vibrant colors stem from the unique ability of metal nanoparticles to absorb and scatter light. For centuries, their use has therefore been limited to art, until it only quite recently was discovered that their color can vary due to a change in their closest surroundings. In fact, this means that one can use metal nanoparticles as tiny sensors for small molecules, which are impossible to see by the naked eye! Therefore, today metal nanoparticles and the phenomenon called a “plasmon” are used in many sensor applications, and I have used them to detect hydrogen gas.

Why hydrogen gas?

You may have heard about hydrogen-fueled cars in the news. Hydrogen is an alternative energy carrier, which promises a clean and green-house gas emission free energy system. One can in principle “mine” hydrogen from water and then use it to power vehicles, with the only product again being pure water. Therefore, in the near future, hydrogen will provide energy for cars, buses, ships and even airplanes.

Unfortunately, however, hydrogen is also flammable when mixed with air, even at relatively low concentrations, and it takes a less intense spark to ignite hydrogen than gasoline. Furthermore, hydrogen is odorless and invisible - thus, we need sensors to detect leaks to enable its safe use.

Which metallic nanoparticles can be used to detect hydrogen?

Commonly famous as jewelry metal, Palladium is known to absorb hydrogen gas in large amounts, very much in analogy to how a sponge absorbs water. Furthermore, Palladium nanoparticles change their color when they absorb hydrogen and the amount color change corresponds to the amount of hydrogen in their surroundings. Therefore, they can be used as a means to measure hydrogen concentration!

Nanoparticles encapsulated in plastic!

In real applications, hydrogen sensors will be used in harsh environments. Therefore, a plastic coating around the tiny palladium nanoparticles can protect them from species that would “block” their surfaces and deactivate them, like oxygen or carbon monoxide. However, as it turns out, like killing three birds with one stone, the plastic is not only for protection but it also accelerates the sensor’s response time by accelerating the hydrogen uptake rate and it enhances the color-change contrast, thereby making the sensor more sensitive.

In this thesis …

…I comprehensively study and design plastic-encapsulated Pd nanoparticles – so-called hybrid materials – to achieve high performance hydrogen sensors, with the aim to push their performance closer industrial requirements. In a wider perspective, my thesis thus contributes to the dissemination of hydrogen energy technologies for a cleaner and more sustainable energy system. Beyond that, hydrogen sensors also find wide application in nuclear power safety, in the chemical and electricity network industries or for medical diagnostics.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (SO 2010-2017, EI 2018-)

Materials Science

Subject Categories

Materials Engineering

Physical Sciences

Nano Technology

Chemical Sciences


Chalmers Materials Analysis Laboratory

Nanofabrication Laboratory




Chalmers University of Technology

Zoom meeting (password request: nisara@chalmers.se)


Opponent: Prof. Torben Rene Jensen. Aarhus University. Denmark.

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