Measurement and Prediction of Electrical Contact Resistance Between Gas Diffusion Layers and Bipolar Plate for Applications to PEM Fuel Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
V. Mishra, F. Yang

 Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Technologies, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3139

R. Pitchumani

 Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Technologies, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3139r.pitchumani@uconn.edu

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 1(1), 2-9 (Mar 31, 2004) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.1782917 History: Received March 31, 2004; Revised March 31, 2004

The electrical contact resistance between gas diffusion layers and bipolar flow channel plates is one of the important factors contributing to the operational voltage loss in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Effective analysis and design of fuel cells therefore need to account for the contact resistance in deriving the polarization curve for the cell. Despite its significance, relatively scant work is reported in the open literature on the measurement and modeling of the contact resistance in fuel cell systems, and the present work aims to fill this void. Experimental data are reported for the first time to show the effects of different gas diffusion layer materials and contact pressure on the electrical contact resistance. A fractal asperity based model is adopted to predict the contact resistance as a function of pressure, material properties, and surface geometry. Good agreement is observed between the data and the model predictions for a wide range of contacting pressures and materials.

Copyright © 2004 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

(a) Schematic of a PEM fuel cell, (b) enlarged view showing the flow channel plate and the gas diffusion layer interface, and (c) close up view of the interface showing the roughness of the contacting surfaces

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Figure 2

(a) Profilometric scan of the surface of GDL-10BA gas diffusion layer, and (b) surface asperity height along the x-direction

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Figure 3

(a) Photograph and (b) schematic of the contact resistance measurement setup

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Figure 4

Compressive stress as a function of compressive strain for GDL-10BA, in the thickness direction

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Figure 5

Variation of (a) total resistance and (b) contact resistance with contact pressure for the GDL-10BA cloth-based gas diffusion layer in contact with a graphite bipolar plate

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Figure 6

Variation of the bulk resistances of GDL-10BA and graphite, and the interfacial contact resistance between them, with contact pressure

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Figure 7

Variation of the measured contact resistance over a range of pressure for all the gas diffusion layer samples evaluated

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Figure 8

Structure function obtained from the profilometric scan (Fig. 2) for a GDL-10BA gas diffusion layer sample

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Figure 9

Comparison of experimental data with fractal model prediction on the contact resistance, for all the GDL samples and contact pressure considered



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