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Modeling of laser cladding with application to fuel cell manufacturing.
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    NUTC R203 ; Project #00016751 ;
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  • Abstract:
    Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells have many advantages such as compactness,

    lightweight, high power density, low temperature operation and near zero emissions. Although

    many research organizations have intensified their efforts towards commercialization of fuel

    cells, several technical problems are yet to be overcome. One of the important issues is the

    availability of low cost bipolar plates. Thus far carbon-based bipolar plates have been the main

    focus of the development activities. These materials will fulfill all requirements in the near future.

    Nevertheless, further cost reduction and an increase of power density is beneficial for fuel cell

    technology [1]. Bipolar plates based on coated metals offer a high potential to reduce costs and

    enhance power density. Aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and nickel are considered possible

    alternative materials for the bipolar plate in PEM fuel cells. These metals need to be coated

    properly because bipolar plates are exposed to an operating environment with a pH of 2–3 at

    high temperatures. Borup and Vanderborgh [2] suggest that coatings for bipolar plates should

    be conductive and adhere to the base material properly to protect the substrate from the

    operating environment. Laser cladding is considered an alternative coating process for solid or

    modular metallic bipolar plates. In laser cladding, the coating material is metallurgically bonded

    with the substrate, which is very important for the functioning of bipolar plates. The advantages

    of laser cladding include chemical cleanliness, localized heating, low dilution of the cladding

    material by the substrate and rapid cooling rates. To understand the relationships between the

    fuel cell component performance and manufacturing process parameters and variability, a

    numerical model has been developed to simulate the physical phenomena associated with laser

    cladding of bipolar plates. This report summarizes the numerical model developed.

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