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Development of Compression Moldable Polymer Composite Bipolar Plates for Fuel Cells

Christopher McGrady, Brent D. Cunningham, and Dr. Donald G. Baird. Chemical Engineering, Virginia Tech, 154 Randolph Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Bipolar plates are by weight, volume, and cost the most significant contributor in a fuel cell stack. The major cost issue in the mass production of bipolar plates is their poor economical ability to be processed readily. There are numerous materials used to produce a bipolar plate that vary in their strength, ability to conduct current, and most importantly machining or forming costs. Polymer composite plates have been developed with excellent mechanical properties and improving conductivity properties. The advantage in using polymer composites is the desired use of compression molding to form channels directly into preforms quickly. Another problematic step is a heating method which will heat the preform to a desired processing temperature just before channels are molded into it. Using heat transfer models radiative, convective, and conductive heat losses can be calculated to determine optimum processing parameters such as mold temperature and cooling time.