MFC Develops Biomimetic Bipolar Plate Technology

October 12, 2003 by Jeff Shepard

The British-based research team of Morgan Fuel Cells Ltd. (MFC, Stourport, Worcestershire, England) announced a technology innovation that promises to boost the power available from fuel cells, and bring down the manufacturing costs. Power increases of 16% have already been achieved, relative to the industry-standard serpentine design of bipolar plate flow field.

The breakthrough is in the design of the bipolar plates that are a key component in fuel cells. The patented Biomimetic™ bipolar plate technology developed by MFC drew its inspiration from the natural world and mimics the structure seen in animal lungs and plant tissues to allow the gases to flow through the plate in a far more efficient way than has ever been achieved before. The Biomimetic™ plates also have the added advantage of being produced using MFC’s patented ElectroEtch™ system, which allows them to be manufactured at a fraction of the time and cost of conventional methods.

Mark Turpin, global director of technology for MFC, explained, "Our Biomimetic™ plate design features a highly branched flow field to ensure non-sequential delivery of gases to the electrode. This ensures a more uniform gas concentration across the bipolar plate, so that more power can be extracted from the fuel cell. Our Biomimetic™ technology demonstrates performance and cost benefits that can not be achieved with conventional serpentine flow field designs. Initial results are very promising, with tests already confirming a 16% increase in peak power, and we are certain that even more significant improvements can be made."

MFC has focused mainly on the graphite bipolar plates featured in proton-exchange membrane type fuel cells used typically in automotive and general power replacement applications. However, Biomimetic™ flow field designs are potentially applicable to ceramic and metal bipolar plates, and the core design has been adapted for use in direct-methanol fuel cells and may find application within solid-oxide fuel cell systems.