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Investigation of a Manufacturing Process for Intermediate to Mass Production of Polymer Graphite Based Bipolar Plates for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Innovative Projects in Energy Education

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.824.1 - 24.824.8



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Paper Authors


Vladimir Gurau P.E. Kent State University at Tuscarawas

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Dr. Gurau is a full-time tenure track Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology at Kent State University at Tuscarawas. Previously he worked for seven years as a Senior Research Associate in the Chemical Engineering Department at Case Western Reserve University where he served as Principal Investigator on several research programs funded by the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier Fuel Cells Program, by the U.S. Department of Energy or in collaboration with General Motors. In this quality he performed research on different fuel cell technologies, including numerical modeling and simulations (Computational Fluid Dynamics and systems optimization), experimental research design, fuel cell component characterization, fuel cell stack design etc. Dr. Gurau has more than two years experience in fuel cell industry with Energy Partners, l.c. (now Teledyne Energy Systems, Inc.) as a research specialist, where he modeled fuel cell phenomena in order to predict and optimize cell performance, including developing of analytical and numerical models (heat and mass transfer in multi-phase, multi-component flows with electro-chemical reactions, flows in porous media, etc). He is the author of several patents related to PEM fuel cells and the author of more than twenty publications in peer review journals or conference presentations in the fuel cells area. Dr. Gurau obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1998 from the Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Miami.

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Investigation of a Manufacturing Process for Intermediate to Mass Production of Polymer/Graphite-Based Bipolar Plates for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells At the recommendation of the ABAT accreditation committee, a new capstone designproject class - Engineering Technology Project was introduced at our Engineering TechnologyDepartment in the spring semester of 2011. Students work in groups under direct facultysupervision on creative, challenging, open-ending projects proposed by the professor in the areaof renewable energy. Practical, hands-on experience is emphasized and analytical and designskills acquired in companion courses are integrated. These projects align with our state’s ThirdFrontier Fuel Cell Program commitment to accelerate the growth of fuel cell industry in thestate, to investigate manufacturing processes and technologies, to adapt or modify existingcomponents and systems that can reduce the cost of fuel cell systems, to address technical andcommercialization barriers and to demonstrate market readiness. Projects on which our studentsworked during the capstone design project class included the design and fabrication of a nine-cell, 50 cm2 active area proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) stack, a first eversuccessful demonstration of an automated assembly process of a PEMFC stack using robotictechnology, design and fabrication of instrumentation for measuring physical properties for fuelcell components and the investigation of manufacturing processes for polymer/graphite-basedbipolar plates for PEMFCs. As identified by the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the obstacles that remain to beresolved on the road to hydrogen economy is the cost of manufacturing fuel cells. A keycomponent of the PEMFC stack represents the bipolar plates which account for 45% of the stackcost. Their functions in the fuel cell are to connect the cells electrically, to house the flow fieldsand uniformly distribute the reactant and oxidant gasses over the active area of the cells, toseparate and prevent the reactant and oxidant gasses in adjacent cells from mixing with eachother, to conduct and distribute the heat produced during the electrochemical reaction and toprovide structural support to the cells. Bipolar plates must have good electrical and thermalconductivity, good mechanical characteristics, low gas permeability, good chemical stability(corrosion resistant), must be lightweight, easily formable and inexpensive. To meet theserequirements, bipolar plates are usually made of graphite, coated or non-coated metals or frompolymer composites including graphite powder. The scope of the present work was to study the manufacturing process of bipolar platesfor PEMFCs using compression molding of GP55-B (GrafTech Inc.) synthetic graphite used aselectrically conductive matrix and PLENCO 12114 phenol formaldehyde thermoset resin (PlencoPlastics Engineering Company) used as binder. We identified the optimum processcharacteristics including material composition, compression level, curing temperature, the molddesign and performed property measurements on the obtained samples, including themeasurement of bulk electrical conductivity using a four-point probe. The samples obtaineddemonstrated characteristics that exceed the requirements of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Gurau, V. (2014, June), Investigation of a Manufacturing Process for Intermediate to Mass Production of Polymer Graphite Based Bipolar Plates for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20716

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