Fuel Cell

Coated stainless steel, the material of choice for bipolar plates in PEM fuel cells

The production and distribution of energy affect every sector of the global economy. Within an expansive industrialisation, there is a growing demand for petroleum-free technological breakthroughs capable of producing and distributing energy in a sustainable and highly efficient manner.

In the automobile sector, the main breakthrough technology is the Fuel Cell (FC). Currently, manufacturers are working to position the Fuel Cell as a viable alternative to the traditional combustion engine. Fuel Cells produce electricity via the electrochemical conversion of hydrogen and oxygen, resulting in only a small amount of lost or wasted energy, which is emitted as water and heat. In other words, Fuel Cells produce clean energy.

Stainless steel, the material of choice for bipolar plates

A single Fuel Cell only provides approximately 1V of power – nowhere near enough to drive a car. To provide the necessary level of power, Fuel Cells are connected together by bipolar plates to form a stack. These bipolar plates assure, for example, gas supply and electrical conductivity. Consequently, the material must be a good electrical conductor, resistant to corrosion, suitable for stamping, recyclable and with a competitive price to enable mass production. Although stainless steel fits perfectly with these targets, especially due to its corrosion resistance, its protective surface layer is insulating. To solve this barrier, Aperam’s solution replaces the passive layer with a conductive coating.

Aperam – your partner of choice

Bipolar plates are produced via stamping, welding and coating one part at a time. As the process of coating each plate individually is time-consuming, the bulk of the costs is tied to the coating process. To decrease this cost, one would have to directly coat the stainless steel in coils before stamping the plate. Although at first glance such a process may seem straightforward, obtaining a coating with a high added value on the entire coil and at a competitive cost is anything but easy. Furthermore, one must use a quality coating capable of withstanding the vigorous manufacturing process.

The PEMFC car is a reality, and one can no longer afford to wait. Costs continue to decrease and mass production isn’t far down the road. The key to getting the PEMFC car to market is obtaining competitive bare materials.

To succeed in this fast-paced, competitive industry, automobile manufacturers need a partner capable of reducing risks and quickly promoting PEMFC cars – making Aperam the partner of choice.