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Fuel Cell Development

Development of Metal Bipolar Plates for Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Power System

The Center for Fuel Cell Development at the Institute for Research and Technology Transfer (IRTT) of the Farmingdale State University of New York has successfully developed new metal treated bipolar plates for PEM fuel cell power stacks. These power stacks are much safer, very robust and more economical than the graphite bipolar plates that are currently being developed nationwide. The metal bipolar plates provide at least a 12% saving in hydrogen consumption in comparison to graphite because of the lower ohmic resistance of metal.

Two patents have been filed to protect IRTTs exciting PEM fuel cell technology that includes a new reactants flow field, robust power stack designs, and innovative manufacturing techniques for efficient metal bipolar plates. A cost effective Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) and utilizing dry reactants is currently under development at the IRTT.

Various prototypes with power ranging from 2 W to 8 kW have been fabricated, assembled and tested at the IRTT as shown in Figure (1). The results of the lifetime testing conducted under variable loading showed no indication of power degradation due to metal corrosion for nearly 700 hours as depicted in Figure (2). This comparison of graphite and metal bipolar plates clearly demonstrates the viability and superiority of this novel technology.

Most bipolar plates are made of graphite composites that are known to be relatively expensive, highly brittle, and have low electric conductivity. Metal bipolar plates such as aluminum and zinc are less expensive, more robust, highly conductive and very easy to machine or die-cast. The lack of brittleness in metal bipolar plates permits the exertion of the necessary tightening torque on the stacks tie rods to completely prevent reactant gas leakage to the outside or around the Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) without any possibility of cracking, unlike graphite.

 


Figure (1) Various Sizes of Safe, Efficient and Leak Free Power Stacks

Moreover, the lower ohmic resistance of metal, attributable to both bulk and contact resistance, results in reducing the electric losses through heat energy. This enhances the PEM fuel cells overall performance as can be seen from the polarization and power density curves in Figure (3). This leads to considerable savings in hydrogen consumption and improved PEM fuel cells efficiency in comparison to graphite as exhibited in Figures (4) and (5).

This new plate technology, which utilizes highly conductive, corrosion-resistance, lightweight, inexpensive, and rigid metal, is proving to be viable and cost-effective as a primary or backup clean power source. The IRTTs new bipolar plate technology introduces higher levels of performance than graphite, and therefore it lends itself to both automotive and stationary applications better than graphite.

Fig. 2. Metal Vs. Graphite Lifetime Test Under Variable Loading

Fig. 3. Polarization Curve for Comparison Between Surface Treated Metal and Graphite

Fig. 4. Power Density & Hydrogen Consumption Curve for Comparison Between Surface Treated Metal and Graphite

Fig. 5. Power density & % Efficiency Curve for comparison Between Surface Treated Metal and Graphite

Click here to see Fuel Cell Demonstration

Publications

Corrosion-resistant lightweight metallic bipolar plates for PEMFCs-2004

Testing & evaluation of aluminum coated bipolar plates of PEMFCs operating at 70 C-2005

Metal bipolar plates for PEM fuel cell-A review-2007

Durability and Characterization Studies of PEM Fuel Cells Coated Aluminum Bipolar Plates and Membrane Electrode Assembly-2009

 

2006-2008 Faculty and Students Team (FaST) Projects

Performance Comparison between Graphite and Metallic Bipolar Plates in Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC)

  Paper

  Poster

  Presentation

Temperature Management of the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell by Air Cooling

  Paper

  Poster

  Presentation

Effect of Reactant Gases Humidification on Hydrogen Fuel Cell Performance

  Poster

  Presentation

The Solar Hydrogen Home

  Paper

  Poster

  Presentation

Testing and Evaluation of Metallic Bipolar Plates for PEM Fuel Cells

  Poster

Development of non-precious nano-catalysts for a PEM fuel cell

  Paper

  Poster

Characterization Studies on Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) and Metallic Bipolar Plates for both the Cathode and Anode of PEM Fuel Cells

  Poster

 

 

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