Photochemical etching: Customized fuel cell bipolar plates

Bipolar Plates

titanium plates
titanium flow channel plate
metallic bipolar plates
electrode plate

The "bipolar plate," also known as a "flow field plate" or "current collector plate," is the largest and most important component in fuel cell stacks and water electrolyzers. The selection of its materials, structural design, and manufacturing processes directly affect the overall performance and lifespan of the fuel cell stack and water electrolyzer. Therefore, the design and optimization of the bipolar plate are crucial for enhancing the performance of fuel cell stacks and water electrolyzers. In these two areas, TMN, as one of the leading manufacturers of metal components in the industry, can provide you with the highest quality custom solutions.

Bipolar plate customization service provider

As a leading provider of photochemical etching custom services, TMN boasts a technical team of over 100 members, including engineers and chemists with professional degrees. TMN is dedicated to developing groundbreaking photochemical etching technologies, aiming for stricter tolerances, better precision, finer functionalities, and thinner components. Because of this, TMN offers a variety of specialized technical support to bipolar plate customers, receiving unanimous praise from clients.

With over a decade of foreign trade expertise, TMN has extensive experience in import and export. TMN's custom-etched metal bipolar plates have been exported to the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland, Hungary, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, India, and Saudi Arabia, serving customers dedicated to the research and production of fuel cell stacks and water electrolyzers. Additionally, we can prepare relevant documents and COC certificates for customs clearance and import inspections upon delivery.

Coating process diagram
Under quality inspection
Stainless steel flow channel plate 2
Stainless steel flow channel plate
Stainless steel bipolar plate

Bipolar plate manufacturing technology

Our capabilities extend to etching curved and straight channels across entire sheets, enabling seamless integration of complex designs. Additionally, we meticulously etch to specified depths, ensuring the precision and reliability of each project.

Dual-Depth Channels

2 different depths of flow channels can be etched on the same side .For example,the total thickness of bipolar plates is 2.0mm,0.6mm and 0.4mm deep channels can be etched on one side, and the 0.5mm deep channel can be etched on the other side.

Surface Coating

For the surface coating ,TMN can do platinum electroplating for one side and do MMO electroplating for the opposite side.

Laser Welding

Achieving some sealing groovesby laser welding technology, the laser welding tags are thin and smooth to keep the surface level.

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At TMN, we not only perform etching, but we also continuously innovate to provide you with unparalleled photochemical etching solutions. We address the complexities of bipolar plates with expertise and precision, offering you an exemplary experience.

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metal-collector-plate
Stainless steel bipolar plate
Aluminum alloy bipolar plate
Aluminum alloy bipolar plate 2

Services that bipolar plates can provide

Customizable channel patterns on both sides.

Customizable groove depths on both sides.

Customizable groove depths on both sides.

All channel patterns can be flexibly modified to support your project.

Support for platinum and MMO coatings, as well as other complex surface treatments.

Limited prototypes of 1-2 pieces to verify the acceptance of your new design.

Prototypes can be completed within one week, with tolerances within +/-0.05mm.

Provision of professional bipolar plate design solutions based on experience.

Hundreds of electrode plates are welded together through bipolar plate laser welding
Bipolar plate stack
By coating the bipolar plates with platinum film, corrosion resistance and conductivity are effectively increased, making the fuel cell life longer
The designed channels are etched onto the stainless steel plates using photochemical etching technology
Titanium alloy bipolar plate
Metal bipolar plate after surface coating

Bipolar plate expertise

Why is it called a bipolar plate?

It is called a "bipolar plate" because it has both cathode and anode channels, forming a "bipolar" structure. This design effectively ensures that in fuel cell stacks and water electrolyzers, hydrogen is distributed on the anode plate, while oxygen and moisture are distributed on the cathode plate.

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What are the applications of bipolar plates?

Bipolar plates are key components in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), and other types of fuel cells. They convert sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen, into electrical energy. In the context of modern electric vehicles, they play a crucial role in significantly enhancing the overall efficiency and reliability of power systems. Additionally, they are used in stationary power generation and, though less commonly, in portable electronic devices.

What are the different types of bipolar plates?

Metal Bipolar Plates: Made from materials such as stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum, these plates are durable, possess good mechanical strength, are easy to process, and can be made small and thin. Their use in fuel cells is increasingly widespread.

Coated Metal Bipolar Plates: These plates have flow channels coated with a thin layer of gold, offering enhanced corrosion resistance and conductivity compared to regular metal bipolar plates.

Graphite Bipolar Plates: Known for their excellent conductivity and corrosion resistance, graphite plates are expensive, have long production cycles, poor machinability, and are not easily miniaturized or made into thin sheets.

Composite Bipolar Plates: Made from a combination of polymers and conductive materials, these plates strike a balance between performance and cost, although they also have relatively long production cycles.

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What is the role of the bipolar plate in a fuel cell?

The bipolar plate in a fuel cell plays several key roles, including conducting current, separating gases, distributing gases and coolant, and supporting structural integrity.

Conducting current: It facilitates the flow of electrons between adjacent cells.

Separating gases: It prevents the mixing of hydrogen and oxygen between cells.

Distributing gases and coolant: Channels within the plate evenly distribute reactant gases and coolant across the cell surface.

Supporting structural integrity: It provides mechanical support and maintains the overall structure of the fuel cell stack.

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What is the difference between a bipolar plate and a monopolar plate?

As noted above, a bipolar plate consists of two different electrode channels (anode plate and cathode plate), with each side connecting to a different electrode. It features flow channels designed to distribute reactant gases and allow for coolant flow. In contrast, a monopolar plate has only one electrode surface, making its structure very simple. It can only support one electrode and provide channels for reactant gases, typically being made of conductive material.

This results in significant differences in their roles and functions in electrochemical devices. The bipolar plate, being more complex, is suited for multi-cell series stacks, whereas the monopolar plate is often used in single cells or specific battery structures.

How many bipolar plates are in a fuel cell?

Currently, the thickness of bipolar plates ranges from 0.15 mm to 0.3 mm. Since a single polymer electrolyte fuel cell produces only 1V of power, achieving the required system power for applications typically involves stacking 200 to 500 individual bipolar plates(The specific quantity is subject to the actual needs of the customer. Currently, among TMN's customers, the maximum number of welding required is 500 bipolar plates.).

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