Investigation of Graphite Bipolar Plates for PEM Fuel Cell Performance

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Virginia Tech

The largest cost in manufacturing PEM fuel cells for automotive applications is due to the bipolar plate. The current graphite material used for the bipolar plate is very brittle and difficult to machine to the rigorous specifications needed for fuel cell stacks. This paper introduces the development of a fuel cell test stand for simultaneous testing of six individual fuel cells. To establish a long-term performance evaluation, the fuel cells incorporate a baseline graphite material that undergoes testing in the fuel cell environment. The graphite is an industry standard material that should not corrode when subjected to continual testing. The baseline model will be used in development of novel composite materials that will be tested under the same conditions for comparison to the graphite. Furthermore, the new materials and applied manufacturing methods could reduce the overall cost of fuel cell stacks in the future.

Funding for this project was generously donated by the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology and the National Science Foundation.

Graphite, Fuel Cells, Bipolar Plates, Test Stand