Journal of Applied Electrochemistry

, Volume 45, Issue 7, pp 637–645 | Cite as

An investigation into the use of additive manufacture for the production of metallic bipolar plates for polymer electrolyte fuel cell stacks

  • Richard J. Dawson
  • Anant J. Patel
  • Allan E. W. Rennie
  • Simon White
Research Article


The bipolar plate is of critical importance to the efficient and long lasting operation of a polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEMFC) stack. With advances in membrane electrode assembly design, greater attention has been focused on the bipolar plate and the important role it plays. Although carbon composite plates are a likely candidate for the mass introduction of fuel cells, it is metallic plates made from thin strip materials which could deliver significant advantages in terms of part cost, electrical performance and size. However, there are some disadvantages. Firstly, interfacial stability of the metal interconnect is difficult to achieve. Secondly, and the issue addressed here, is the difficultly and cost in developing new plate designs when there are very significant tooling costs associated with manufacture. The use of selective laser melting (SLM: an additive manufacturing technique) was explored to produce metallic bipolar plates for PEMFC as a route to inexpensively test several plate designs without committing to tooling. Crucial to this was proving that, electrically, bipolar plates fabricated by SLM behave similarly to those produced by conventional manufacturing techniques. This research presents the development of a small stack to compare the short term performance of metallic plates made by machining against those made by SLM. Experimental results demonstrate that the cell performance in this case was unaffected by the manufacturing method used and it is therefore concluded that additive manufacturing could be a very useful tool to aid the rapid development of metallic bipolar plate designs.


Bipolar plate Polymer electrolyte fuel cell PEMFC Selective laser melting Additive manufacturing 



The authors would like to thank the technical staff at Lancaster University, The Lloyds Register Lab for loan of equipment and particularly Hassan Abou Ghazala for manufacturing the GDLs.


  1. 1.
    DoE (2013) Fuel Cell Technologies Office, multi-year research, development and demonstration plan. Department of Energy, USAGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Dhakate SR, Mathur RB, Kakati BK, Dhami TL (2007) Properties of graphite-composite bipolar plate prepared by compression molding technique for PEM fuel cell. Int J Hydrog Energy 32(17):4537–4543. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2007.02.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Heinzel A, Mahlendorf F, Niemzig O, Kreuz C (2004) Injection moulded low cost bipolar plates for PEM fuel cells. J Power Sources 131(1–2):35–40. doi: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2004.01.014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kakati BK, Sathiyamoorthy D, Verma A (2010) Electrochemical and mechanical behavior of carbon composite bipolar plate for fuel cell. Int J Hydrog Energy 35(9):4185–4194. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2010.02.033 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hermann A, Chaudhuri T, Spagnol P (2005) Bipolar plates for PEM fuel cells: a review. Int J Hydrog Energy 30(12):1297–1302. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2005.04.016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Antunes RA, Oliveira MCL, Ett G, Ett V (2010) Corrosion of metal bipolar plates for PEM fuel cells: a review. Int J Hydrog Energy 35(8):3632–3647. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2010.01.059 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gabreab EM, Hinds G, Fearn S, Hodgson D, Millichamp J, Shearing PR, Brett DJL (2014) An electrochemical treatment to improve corrosion and contact resistance of stainless steel bipolar plates used in polymer electrolyte fuel cells. J Power Sources 245:1014–1026. doi: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2013.07.041 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Omrani M, Habibi M, Amrollahi R, Khosravi A (2012) Improvement of corrosion and electrical conductivity of 316L stainless steel as bipolar plate by TiN nanoparticle implantation using plasma focus. Int J Hydrog Energy 37(19):14676–14686. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2012.06.048 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lundberg MW, Berger R, Westlinder J, Folkeson N, Holmberg H (2013) Novel multilayered PVD-coating in a roll to roll mass production process. Solid Oxide Fuel Cells 13 57(1):2203–2208. doi: 10.1149/05701.2203ecst Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    DECC UK Government (2013) The Future of Heating: meeting the challengeGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kruth JP, Levy G, Klocke F, Childs THC (2007) Consolidation phenomena in laser and powder-bed based layered manufacturing. CIRP Ann Manuf Technol 56(2):730–759. doi: 10.1016/j.cirp.2007.10.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Yasa E, Kruth JP, Deckers J (2011) Manufacturing by combining Selective Laser Melting and Selective Laser Erosion/laser re-melting. CIRP Ann Manuf Technol 60(1):263–266. doi: 10.1016/j.cirp.2011.03.063 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Morton W, Green S, Rennie AEW, Abram TN (2012) Surface finishing techniques for SLM manufactured stainless steel 316L components. In: Bartolo PJ, DeLemos ACS, Tojeira APO et al (eds) 5th International conference on advanced research and rapid prototyping, Leiria, Portugal, 2012, pp 503–509Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bidault F, Brett DJL, Middleton PH, Abson N, Brandon NP (2010) An improved cathode for alkaline fuel cells. Int J Hydrog Energy 35(4):1783–1788. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2009.12.035 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gomadam PM, Weidner JW (2005) Analysis of electrochemical impedance spectroscopy in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. Int J Energy Res 29(12):1133–1151. doi: 10.1002/er.1144 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    André J, Antoni L, Petit J-P, De Vito E, Montani A (2009) Electrical contact resistance between stainless steel bipolar plate and carbon felt in PEFC: a comprehensive study. Int J Hydrog Energy 34(7):3125–3133. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2009.01.089 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard J. Dawson
    • 1
  • Anant J. Patel
    • 1
  • Allan E. W. Rennie
    • 1
  • Simon White
    • 1
  1. 1.Engineering DepartmentLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

Personalised recommendations