What are bipolar plates for fuel cells?
Fuel cells are produced by stacking precise and intricate bipolar plates machined with complex grooves or channels which enable liquid and gases to flow.
Bipolar plate machining
Whilst CNC machining, stamping and hydroforming can be used to produce these channels, traditional metalworking has limitations, such as compromising planarity (flatness) and introducing stresses and burrs. Single-point machining processes and presswork tooling can also be slow and uneconomical to produce.
Precision Micro has long-standing partnerships with a number of leading alternative energy providers who benefit from economic, accurate, burr- and stress-free etched bipolar fuel cells plates.
Benefits of etching bipolar plates
Complexity at no added cost
Photo etching removes metal simultaneously, meaning complex channels or flow fields can be etched on both sides of the bipolar plate. This versatility enables designers to vary the size and shape of channels and incorporate headers, collectors and port features without additional cost.
Digital tooling, which is low-cost and quick to produce, can be adapted easily and inexpensively to optimise designs.
Burr-free, stress-free and flat
Unlike CNC machining, stamping and hydroforming, photo etching imparts no mechanical or thermal stress on the plates which can compromise stack bonding.
Typically etched from 316 stainless steel, photo etched bipolar plates can also be etched by Precision Micro in titanium for lighter-weight and corrosion resistance.
Did you know?
Bipolar fuel cell plates produced by Precision Micro powered the zero emission black cabs used to transport dignitaries during the London 2012 Olympic Games.