Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Karla M. Mossi


Micro-forming studies have been more attractive in recent years because of miniaturization trend. One of the promising metal forming processes, micro-stamping, provides durability, strength, surface finish, and low cost for metal products. Hence, it is considered a prominent method for fabricating bipolar plates (BPP) with micro-channel arrays on large metallic surfaces to be used in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC). Major concerns in micro-stamping of high volume BPPs are surface interactions between micro-stamping dies and blank metal plates, and tribological changes. These concerns play a critical role in determining the surface quality, channel formation, and dimensional precision of bipolar plates. The surface quality of BPP is highly dependent on the micro-stamping die surface, and process conditions due to large ratios of surface area to volume (size effect) that cause an increased level of friction and wear issues at the contact interface. Due to the high volume and fast production rates, BPP surface characteristics such as surface roughness, hardness, and stiffness may change because of repeated interactions between tool (micro-forming die) and workpiece (sheet blank of interest). Since the surface characteristics of BPPs have a strong effect on corrosion and contact resistance of bipolar plates, and consequently overall fuel cell performance, evolution of surface characteristics at the tool and workpiece should be monitored, controlled, and kept in acceptable ranges throughout the long production cycles to maintain the surface quality. Compared to macro-forming operations, tribological changes in micro-forming process are bigger challenges due to their dominance and criticality. Therefore, tribological size effect should be considered for better understanding of tribological changes in micro-scale. The integrity of process simulation to the experiments, on the other hand, is essential. This study describes an approach that aims to investigate the surface topography changes during long-run micro-stamping of BPPs, and establish relationships between surface roughness–corrosion resistance and surface roughness–contact resistance characteristics of BPPs. Formability levels of formed BPPs and repeatability characteristics of the process were investigated. In addition, blank thickness changes, von-Mises stress, plastic strain levels and distributions of micro-stamping process were determined via finite element analysis (FEA). Test results revealed that the surface roughness change for the stamping dies and BPPs was unsteady (no trend) due to the continuous change of surface topography (i.e. asperity deformation). Sub-micron range local plastic deformations on stamping dies led to surface topography changes on BPP in long-run manufacturing case. As surface defects trigger corrosion, the correlation between surface roughness and corrosion resistance of BPPs was found to be direct. Increasing number of surface irregularities (asperities) lowered contact surface area that resulted in increased contact resistance. ZrN coated BPPs, on the other hand, did not change surface roughness, however; it improved the protection of BPPs against corrosion significantly. In addition, ZrN coating increased the conductivity of BPPs and reduced the contact resistance between BPP and gas diffusion layer (GDL), at certain extent. As dimensional stability and repeatability was confirmed in forming of both uncoated and coated BPPs during the long run manufacturing, different formability levels were achieved for coated and uncoated samples. Lower channel height values were obtained for coated plates because of the different surface hardness of uncoated and coated plates. In tribological size effect part of study, micro stamping experiments using three different dies with distinct channel height values at different stamping force levels were performed. It was concluded that decrease in forming die dimensions led to increase in coefficient of friction as previously reported by other researchers as one of the consequences of tribological size effect. On the other hand, coefficient of friction values were not affected by the force levels used in the experiments and simulations, whereas plastic strain, equivalent stress, and formability levels were increased with increasing stamping force, as expected. In essence, this study proposed a methodology to investigate the long-run manufacturing effects on dimensional stability and surface characteristics of micro-stamped sheets. It also correlates these parameters to fuel cell performance measures such as interfacial contact and corrosion resistance.


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Date of Submission

May 2012

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Engineering Commons