Research Papers

Fabrication of Metallic Bipolar Plates for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell by Flexible Forming Process-Numerical Simulations and Experiments

[+] Author and Article Information
Linfa Peng

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

Dong’an Liu, Peng Hu

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

Xinmin Lai1

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

Jun Ni

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


Corresponding author.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 7(3), 031009 (Mar 11, 2010) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3207870 History: Received July 31, 2008; Revised July 16, 2009; Published March 11, 2010; Online March 11, 2010

PEM fuel cell nowadays is expensive for widespread commercialization, though it has obvious advantages, such as high efficiency, high power density, fast startup and high system robustness. As one of the most important and costliest components in the PEM fuel cell stack, bipolar plates (BPPs) account for more than 80% of the weight and 30% of the cost of the whole stack. By replacing the conventional graphitic or machined thick metal plates with the lightweight and low-cost thin metallic sheet BPP with sustainable coating, PEM fuel cell will become an attractive choice for manufacturers. In this study, the fabrication of micro-channel features by flexible forming process (FFP) are studied first, which demonstrates the feasibility of using FFP to manufacture thin metallic BPPs. Then, the obtained knowledge is applied onto the fabrication of real thin metallic BPPs with some process amendment. The first investigation of this study focuses on the forming of micro-channel features with 100μm thickness stainless steel sheet. A finite element analysis (FEA) model is built and key process parameters (hardness of soft tools used in FFP, friction coefficients between contact surfaces) associated with the formability of BPPs are studied. The FEA is partly validated by the experiments. In the second investigation, finite element analysis method is adopted in the design of the BPP forming process. Based on the numerical simulation results, the die setup is prepared and some process amendments are made to improve the formability of BPPs. As a result, high quality metallic BPPs are obtained in the latter experiments, which demonstrates the feasibility to manufacture the metallic bipolar plate by FFP.

Copyright © 2010 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Comparison of different materials in terms of kW/l and kW/kg

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Figure 2

Micro sheet forming process to manufacture micro-channel features (15): (a) the original forming process and (b) the one feature used for FEM modeling

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Figure 3

Sketch of the metallic BPP configuration

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Figure 4

Sketch of assembly of PEM fuel cells stack, based on metallic thin BPPs

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Figure 5

Key dimensions of the micro-channel section

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Figure 6

Von-Mises stress distribution of formed sheets by FFP with soft tools of different hardness: (a) formed by soft tools of Shore A hardness 70 (h/w=0.5), (b) formed by soft tools of Shore A hardness 50 (h/w=0.5), (c) formed by soft tools of Shore A hardness 70 (h/w=0.75), and (d) formed by soft tools of Shore A hardness 50 (h/w=0.75)

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Figure 7

Thickness distribution of the formed part with various soft tools

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Figure 8

Von-Mises stress distribution of formed sheets with different friction conditions: (a) friction coefficient f1=0.3 and f2=0.1, (b) friction coefficient f1=0 and f2=0.1, (c) friction coefficient f1=0.1 and f2=0, and (d) friction coefficient f1=0.1 and f2=0.3

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Figure 9

Thickness distribution of formed parts with different friction conditions (80 kN)

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Figure 10

Experimental setup of the micro sheet forming process by soft punch (15). (a) Sketch of forming the experiment assembly. (b) Photo of parts used in the experiment.

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Figure 11

Thickness distribution of formed parts (h/w=0.75). (a) Measure sketch. (b) Thickness in the section of the metal sheet.

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Figure 12

Rigid die with micro-channel arrays (five-channel)

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Figure 13

Profile measurement of formed micro-channel array features. (a) Formed micro-channel array features. (b) Profile measurement.

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Figure 14

Heights of channel in formed parts at various load

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Figure 15

Relative channel height (channel height to die width)

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Figure 16

Formability analysis based on FLD. (a) FLD. (b) Formability diagram.

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Figure 17

Process amendment to eliminate the wrinkle at the corner of the effective area

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Figure 18

Thickness distribution of BPP by FFP

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Figure 19

Picture of rigid die

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Figure 20

Picture of BPPs



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