Journal of Power Sources, Vol.86, No.1-2, 274-282, 2000
Use of stainless steel for cost competitive bipolar plates in the SPFC
Bipolar plate materials for the Solid Polymer Fuel Cell (SPFC), alternative to the presently used graphite, should fulfil the following requirements in order to be applicable: low-cost, easy to machine or to shape, lightweight and low volume, mechanically and sufficiently chemically stable, and having a low contact resistance. Stainless steel is a low-cost material that is easy to shape, and thin sheets can be used to yield low volume and weight. Several stainless steels have been tested for their applicability. The compaction pressure is of large influence on the contact resistance. Also, the pre-treatment of the surface is of influence; this is a permanent effect. Stainless steel constituents slowly dissolve into the Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA). It has been found that the anode side stainless steel flow plate is the main source of contamination. Direct contact between the stainless steel and the membrane greatly enhances the contaminant level. Using an appropriate pre-treatment and a coating or gasket preventing direct contact between stainless steel and the membrane, one alloy was found to satisfy the requirements for use as a low cost material for the flow plate of an SPFC.