Protective Nitride Formation on Stainless Steel Alloys for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell Bipolar Plates

B. Yang, M. P. Brady, H. Wang, J. A. Turner, K. L. More, D. J. Young, P. F. Tortorelli, E. A. Payzant, L. R. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus Citations


Gas nitridation has shown excellent promise to form dense, electrically conductive and corrosion-resistant Cr-nitride surface layers on Ni-Cr base alloys for use as proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) bipolar plates. Due to the high cost of nickel, Fe-base bipolar plate alloys are needed to meet the cost targets for many PEMFC applications. Unfortunately, nitridation of Fe-base stainless steel alloys typically leads to internal Cr-nitride precipitation rather than the desired protective surface nitride layer formation, due to the high permeability of nitrogen in these alloys. This paper reports the finding that it is possible to form a continuous, protective Cr-nitride (CrN and Cr2N) surface layer through nitridation of Fe-base stainless steel alloys. The key to form a protective Cr-nitride surface layer was found to be the initial formation of oxide during nitridation, which prevented the internal nitridation typically observed for these alloys, and resulted in external Cr-nitride layer formation. The addition of V to the alloy, which resulted in the initial formation of V2O3-Cr2O3, was found to enhance this effect, by making the initially formed oxide more amenable to subsequent nitridation. The Cr-nitride surface layer formed on model V-modified Fe-27Cr alloys exhibited excellent corrosion resistance and low interfacial contact resistance under simulated PEMFC bipolar plate conditions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)228-236
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-560-42507


  • Corrosion
  • Electrical properties
  • Nitridation
  • Nitrides
  • Oxidation
  • Stainless steels


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