Student Research

Microstructural Analysis of a Chromized Stainless Steel for Fuel Cell Applications

A fuel cell is a system that produces electricity from chemical reactions, between a hydrogen/hydrogen-containing fuel and oxygen (typically from air). One type of fuel cell is the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC). The main advantage of using a PEMFC is the effectiveness of energy conversion compared to fossil fuels. Using PEMFCs will help in lowering poisonous emissions into the air and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. For a PEMFC to work to its full capacity the system must meet several criteria, e.g., high corrosion resistance, high mechanical strength and low manufacturing cost. In this experiment, stainless steel was chromized by a halide activated pack cementation process. Chromizing stainless steel is one way to enhance the steel’s hardness and corrosion resistance. The focus of my project was to analyze the microstructure of the chromized stainless steel. The results will establish how the chromized coating benefited the stainless steel by looking at the microstructure of the steel and chromized coating layer. Analyzing the microstructure will help determine how the coating will help the stainless steel in a cell fuel environment.