Bipolar plates perform as current conductors between cells, provide conduits for reactant gases, facilitate water and thermal management through the cells, and constitute the backbone of a fuel cell stack. Currently, commercial bipolar plates are made of graphite composite because of its relatively low interfacial contact resistance (ICR) and high corrosion resistance. However, graphite composite’s manufacturability, permeability, and durability of shock and vibration are unfavorable in comparison to metals. Therefore, metals have been considered as a replacement material for graphite composite bipolar plates. The main objective of this study is to evaluate the effect of terminal connection design and bipolar plate material on PEM fuel cell overall performance. The study has indicated that single cell performance can be improved by combining terminals into metallic bipolar plates. This terminal design reduces the internal cell resistance and eliminates the need for additional terminal plates. The improved single cell performance by 18% and the increased savings in hydrogen consumption by 15% at the current density of 0.30 A/cm2 was attributed to the robust metal to metal contact between the terminal and the metallic bipolar plates. However, connecting metal terminal directly into graphite bipolar plates did not exhibit similar improvement in the performance of graphite fuel cells because of their brittleness that could have caused damage in the plates and poor contacts.
Cite this paper
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