Picture of a 500-Watt hydrogen fuel cell stack designed, developed, integrated and tested at the Naval Research Laboratory.
500-Watt hydrogen fuel cell stack designed, developed, integrated and tested at the Naval Research Laboratory.

A Naval Research Laboratory team has made significant progress toward using additive manufacturing to make fuel cell systems, with the development of their own proton exchange membrane fuel cell stack (see figure 1). Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen fuel at their anode, and the oxygen gas from air at the cathode to make electricity, water and low-grade heat. The stack development required the design and fabrication of durable gas/current flow fields, sealing of electrodes, stack assembly and controls development to successfully operate the stack.

The stack is made out of titanium bipolar plates, which required extensive modeling with computational fluid design to optimize the distribution of reactant gases and heat. The flow fields were built into bipolar plate electrodes using 3D metal sinterering. Commercial catalyst membranes are used inside to generate power. The stack is integrated into a brass board with a “balance of plant” and presently operated with LabView controls.

This stack technology will be used for research on a range of topics, from contamination research, to integration of fuel cells with unmanned systems.

This research is a collaboration between NRL's Chemistry and Tactical Electronic Warfare Divisions and Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics branch.

Principal Investigator:
Dr. K. Swiders-Lyons
Chemistry Division
Naval Research Laboratory
Washington DC 20375

Publication Approval: 
13-1231-3360

Key publications

C. Netwall, Gould, B. D. , Rodgers, J. A. , Nasello, N. J. , and Swider-Lyons, K. E. , Decreasing contact resistance in proton exchange membrane fuel cells with metal bipolar plates, Journal of Power Sources, vol. 227, pp. 137-144, 2013.