Mechanical and Corrosion Response of 316SS in Supercritical CO2


The supercritical carbon dioxide (s-CO2) Brayton cycle is currently being explored as a replacement for the steam Rankine cycle due to its potential for higher efficiency and lower cycle cost. 316 stainless steel is a candidate alloy for use in s-CO2 up to roughly 600 °C, but the mechanical effects of prolonged exposure of base and welded material in s-CO2 have not been analyzed. The potential for carburization makes this an important concern for the implementation of 316 and similar austenitic stainless steels in the s-CO2 environment. In this study, welded and base material of two types of 316–316L and 316H–were exposed in either s-CO2 or argon at 550 °C or 750 °C for 1000 h. 550 °C s-CO2 exposure yielded a thin (< 1 µm) Cr oxide with occasional nodules of duplex Fe oxide and Fe–Cr spinel that were up to 5 microns thick. However, tensile results from s-CO−2 exposure matched those of 550 °C thermal aging in Ar, indicating that no mechanically detrimental carburization occurred in either 316 variant after 1000 h exposure. Conversely, 750 °C s-CO2 exposure produced roughly 10 × the oxide thickness, with a more substantial Fe oxide (3–5 µm) on the majority of the surface and nodules of up to 40 µm thick. In comparison to aged samples, tensile testing of 750 °C CO2-exposed samples revealed ductility loss attributed to carburization. Projections of 316L performance in s-CO2 indicate that mechanically detrimental carburization—equal to that shown here for 750 °C, 1000 h—will likely be present after 7–14 years of service at 550 °C.

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Data Availability

The data are available upon request from AMB.


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The author gratefully acknowledges the contributions to the work made by Paul Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Additionally, a special thanks to Ryan Carroll and Peter Li who performed significant work in completing this research. The author also acknowledges the assistance of Dr. Julie Tucker at Oregon State University for aiding the writing process of this research. Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory managed and operated by National Technology & Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-NA0003525. This paper describes objective technical results and analysis. Any subjective views or opinions that might be expressed in the paper do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Energy or the United States Government.


This work was supported by Advance supercritical carbon dioxide cycles DE-EE0007120 and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Brittan, A., Mahaffey, J., Adam, D. et al. Mechanical and Corrosion Response of 316SS in Supercritical CO2. Oxid Met 95, 409–425 (2021).

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  • 316 Stainless Steel
  • Supercritical carbon dioxide
  • Mechanical properties
  • Oxidation
  • Carburization