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DOE Awards Follow-On Funding for Metallic Bipolar PEM Fuel Cells

8 November 2006

Gencell2
Protective chromium-nitride surface layer. Click to enlarge.

The Department of Energy has awarded $4.5 million to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and its partners to further the development of nitrided metallic bipolar plates for automotive PEM fuel cells. The award is a follow-on to an earlier $1.65-million project designed to demonstrate the potential for metallic bipolar plates to meet 5,000-hour durability goals at a cost of <$6/kW.

The first project ended in September 2006; the follow-on will begin in 2007, and last for two years.

In addition to ORNL, which is developing the nitridation surface treatment, partners include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Los Alamos National Laboratory; GenCell, makers of bipolar-plate fuel cells; Arizona State University; and Allegheny Ludlum Corp.

Metallic bipolar plates are an alternative to carbon-composite bipolar plates and are preferred by many automobile companies. The key issue with metallic plates, however, is developing corrosion-resistant and low-contact-resistant materials while offering the potential for low-cost production.

The goal of the follow-on project is to scale up and to demonstrate the technological and economic viability of thin-stamped metallic bipolar plates protected by a thermally nitrided surface treatment.

In this approach, an electrically-conductive and corrosion-resistant chromium-nitride surface layer is formed on the bipolar plate component by heating a specially designed bipolar plate alloy to high temperatures in a nitrogen-containing environment.

The process results in a surface conversion, and is not a deposited coating. The high process temperature favors the reaction of all metal surfaces, eliminating pin-hole defects. The process is also amenable to complex geometries, such as those in the bipolar plate. This allows the plates to be stamped and then nitrided—an established and low-cost approach.

The project work will include optimization of an inexpensive iron-chromium base alloy composition and nitridation process; characterization of the bipolar plates; and demonstration of the optimized bipolar plate stamping and nitridation processes and subsequent plate testing in a fuel cell stack.

Gencell1
GenCell bipolar plate cell.

GenCell has developed a proprietary sheet metal bipolar separator plate, current collector and electrodes—the discrete components of a fuel cell. The GenCell product nests sheet metal bipolar plates with thin walls and high surface area.

The company will receive $1.25 million of the grant to advance these stamped metallic bipolar plates and to provide the plate and stack architecture designed to meet cost and weight targets set by the DOE.

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November 8, 2006 in Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

If this could lower the cost and lengthen the life of fuel cells, it would be worth developing.

DME developments in CHina:
Since DME has an advantage of decomposition at lower temperature than methane and LPG, R&D for hydrogen source for fuel cell has been carried out.

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DME productivity can be much higher especially if
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Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
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Available project finance supports the investments
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