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UOW-led project to create cleaner, greener stainless steel manufacturing process

UOW-led project to create cleaner, greener stainless steel manufacturing process

Researchers awarded more than $500k to solve long-standing problems with traditional materials

A pair of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) have been given the green light to explore a new manufacturing process for bipolar plates that will advance the clean energy industry and work towards Australia’s goal of net-zero by 2050.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) last week (Friday 21 June) announced the recipients of the Linkage Project Scheme Round 2, with the UOW project sharing in $43-million worth of funding.

Distinguished Professor Zhengyi Jiang, from the School of Mechanical, Materials, Mechatronic and Biomedical Engineering, and Dr Hui Wu, an Honorary Fellow at UOW, will work alongside industry partners Baosteel and SNS Unicorp on the Linkage Project, which received $565,193 over three years.

The researchers will develop a new austenitic stainless steel bipolar plate for hydrogen fuel cells.

Austenitic stainless steel contains a crystalline structure, which creates a higher resistance to corrosion. This type of stainless steel is nonmagnetic and is not hardened by heat treatment.

Bipolar plates play a crucial role in generating electricity and physically strengthening a fuel cell stack. Usually made of steel or graphite, they have two sides – the bipolar - that help to manage the flow of electrical charges to the fuel cell.

The project aims to develop a green, efficient, and cost-effective manufacturing process to produce a new stainless steel bipolar plate for fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen. It will work to solve long-standing issues in traditional materials used for bipolar plates, which are either brittle, costly, or susceptible to corrosion in acidic, high-humidity, and temperate environments.

Professor Jiang said the researchers, along with the industry partners, were thrilled to have been awarded the funding and to be able to have a positive impact on the future of clean manufacturing and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Australia.

“The project will lead to a breakthrough in steelmaking by significantly reducing industrial pollution and operation costs and enhancing the overall performance of Hydrogen Fuel Cells,” Professor Jiang said.

“Research like this, undertaken with industry partners, will be essential in developing clean energy in Australia and helping to achieve the goal of cutting carbon emissions.”

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Sustainable Futures) Professor David Currow congratulated Professor Jiang and Dr Wu on their success in the ARC Linkage Projects.

“Manufacturing and industry have such an integral role to play in the nation’s move towards clean energy, and projects like this show that we are heading in the right direction towards achieving a sustainable future,” Professor Currow said.

“Congratulations to Distinguished Professor Jiang and Dr Wu, alongside the teams at BaoSteel and SNS Unicorp, on this interesting and worthy ARC project.”

UOW is committed to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a shared blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone. This project addresses Goal 7, Affordable and Clean Energy; Goal 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; Goal 13, Climate Action; and Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals.