Research Papers

Design, Optimization, and Fabrication of Slotted-Interdigitated Thin Metallic Bipolar Plates for PEM Fuel Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
Linfa Peng

State Key Laboratory of Mechanical System and Vibration, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240, Chinapenglinfa@sjtu.edu.cn

Xinmin Lai1

State Key Laboratory of Mechanical System and Vibration, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240, Chinaxmlai@sjtu.edu.cn

Peiyun Yi, Jianming Mai

State Key Laboratory of Mechanical System and Vibration, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240, China

Jun Ni

Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Corresponding author.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 8(1), 011002 (Nov 01, 2010) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4002229 History: Received November 25, 2009; Revised May 27, 2010; Published November 01, 2010; Online November 01, 2010

Thin metallic sheet bipolar plates (BPPs) with sustainable coating are promising candidates to replace conventional graphitic or machined thick metal plates due to their lightweight and low cost. Interdigitated flow field design is easier for two stamped thin metallic sheets joined together to compose reactant flow fields in both sides and serpentine coolant flow field in the middle. Unfortunately, this kind of BPP inevitable brings two main defects: rupture of material during forming process and uneven flow distribution in practical operation. First, we propose a slotted-interdigitated configuration of the flow field for proton exchange membrane fuel cell with consideration of the characteristics of the metallic sheet forming process. In order to relieve the uneven flow distribution, an analytic model is introduced to analyze the reactant gas flow based on the similarity between the gas flow and the electrical current. Furthermore, an optimization model is proposed. The depth of the slot on the channel rib is optimized to eliminate the uneven flow distribution to obtain high reaction performance. Second, we studied the BPPs from the manufacturability perspective because it is also another important factor that should be considered in the design stage. The key geometric dimensions of flow field section, where the rupture occurs, are extracted and parametrized. Finite element analysis model is established to analyze the formability of BPP by flexible forming process (FFP). In addition, different dies with various flow channel sections are prepared and experiments are performed. Some design principles about material selection and key geometric dimension definition are proposed to improve the formability of BPPs. In the end, based on the design principles and experimental results, the dies are carefully design and fabricated experimental setup for FFP is prepared and practical experiments are performed. High quality metallic BPPs are achieved eventually by FFP.

Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Sketch of thin metallic BPPs with the interdigitated flow field and the rupture during the forming process

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Figure 2

Concept design of second generation BPPs

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Figure 3

Schematic diagram of flow distribution analysis model (17)

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Figure 4

Optimized depth and width of each channel

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Figure 5

Comparison of the contour results from CFD simulation (17)

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Figure 6

Microchannel feature formability analysis for various materials

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Figure 7

Key dimensions in the cutaway view of the rigid die along the section line

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Figure 8

Experimental results and numerical results for the workpiece (case 1)

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Figure 9

Thickness distribution of the formed parts (case 3)

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Figure 10

Sketch of the experimental setup (13)

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Figure 11

Formability analysis of BPPs by numerical simulations

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Figure 12

Formed parts obtained by FFP

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Figure 13

Forming process analysis for slotted-interdigitated shape

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Figure 14

Thickness of the section for BPPs




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