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Surface engineering solutions to enhance the performance and durability of proton exchange membrane fuel cells

Project Description

The aim of this project is to investigate and develop surface engineering solutions to address corrosion and reliability issues in bipolar plates in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), in order to provide enhanced performance and durability.

Specifically, we aim to:

• Deposit candidate coatings, such as TiN/C and Ru-doped SS coatings onto SS BPPs using magnetron sputtering techniques,
• Characterise the coatings structures and properties,
• Test and compare the coated BPP’s performance in terms of corrosion resistance, mechanical durability and electrochemistry,
• Produce optimised coated BBPs and assess their performance in PEMFC test rigs at the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre (MFCIC) at MMU.

Magnetron sputtering is a versatile and widely used technique for commercial coatings in a vast range of industrial applications. Therefore, coatings in this work will be deposited onto SS substrates in a single process from multiple targets arrangement using magnetron sputtering. The morphology of coatings deposited under variable conditions, such as power and pressure will be examined using standard analytical techniques like SEM, XRD, EDS, AFM. Following that, coatings will be subjected to electrochemical characterisation to study their corrosion resistance and interfacial contact resistance. The performance of materials will be compared by testing coated BPPs in-situ using fuel cell test cell under PEMFC operating conditions.

This project will dovetail with existing thin film research projects for fuel cells applications currently underway and planned in the MFCIC and will expand our portfolio of techniques and applications. The group is well equipped with deposition and characterisation facilities and has the expertise to design and modify equipment as required. The supervisory team have national and international industrial and academic collaborators in this field that are willing to contribute materials or test devices, and they will be brought in to support this project.


Applicants must apply using the online form on the University Alliance website at Full details of the programme, eligibility details and a list of available research projects can be seen at

The final deadline for application is 12 April 2019.

Funding Notes

DTA3/COFUND participants will be employed for 36 months with a minimum salary of (approximately) £20,989 per annum. Tuition fees will waived for DTA3/COFUND participants who will also be able to access an annual DTA elective bursary to enable attendance at DTA training events and interact with colleagues across the Doctoral Training Alliance(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801604.

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