Modeling of laser cladding with application to fuel cell manufacturing.

Modeling of laser cladding with application to fuel cell manufacturing.

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    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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