Quality Assurance for Fuel Cell Systems

Quality Assurance for
Fuel Cell Systems

Reliable components through inspection and quality data

Fuel Cell System Quality Management

Fuel cell system quality management

Precision inspection of individual cell components

Comprising a bipolar plate (BPP) and a membrane electrode assembly (MEA), each fuel cell in the stack is connected in series and therefore crucial to overall system quality. To ensure compliance with stringent demands, they must be inspected in relation to their coating, potential surface defects including contamination, and weld seam.

ZEISS solutions help meet quality requirements throughout the entire value chain for fuel cell system production. Hardware and software work in tandem to generate clear component-related reports.

Full coverage of fuel cell system applications

Since fuel cell systems provide the entire energy needed to power the electric drivetrain, all system components must be produced in line with the highest standards so as to enable a reliable supply. From the bipolar plate and the membrane electrode assembly to the additional peripheral components, you can always perform detailed inspections with the ZEISS portfolio. Click the links below to explore our dedicated quality assurance solutions for fuel cell system applications.

Bipolar Plate

Bipolar plate

Cell quality inspection

There are typically more than one hundred individual fuel cells in a single stack. Efficient generation of electrical energy depends on the guaranteed quality of each individual cell. The bipolar plate provides mechanical stability, ensuring the flow of media and the electrical connection between adjacent cells in the series.

Membrane Electrode Assembly

Membrane electrode assembly

Membrane and electrode inspection

A chemical reaction in the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is the source of electrical energy in the stack. Two electrodes are positioned on each side of the MEA and house the relevant catalysts. These electrodes are applied to both sides of the membrane (CCM) or to the respective gas diffusion layer (CCL).

Peripheral Components

Peripheral components

Component quality inspection

Many components besides the fuel cell stack are relevant to the system. Hydrogen for the chemical reaction is transported via a piping system. Oxygen is obtained from the ambient air and treated using pumps, filters, water separators, and more. Fuel cell system efficiency depends on high component quality.

ZEISS eMobility solutions at every manufacturing step

Blue Line for the fuel cell system

  • Microstructure Formation and Single Polar Plate Cutting
    Quality gate 1:

    Microstructure formation and single polar plate cutting

    2D and 3D geometry


    • Need to maintain unhindered flow of gas and coolant through specially designed microstructures
    • Degradation such as burr formation must be detected to preserve quality
    • Dimensional accuracy of outer contours, recesses, and geometric elements must be ensured for stack alignment

    Your benefits with ZEISS

    • Chromatic white light measurement using the ZEISS DotScan sensor on a ZEISS CMM with rotating probe head
    • In-depth 3D polished micrograph imaging with ZEISS Axio Imager 2 light microscope
    • Ideal preparation for plate joining and stacking with optical contour measurement using ZEISS O-INSPECT
  • Coating of Polar Plates
    Quality Gate 2:

    Coating of Polar Plates

    Coating inspection and defect detection


    • Polar plate coating is essential to corrosion protection and must be analyzed for cracks, bubbles, and other defects
    • Thin steel layer on BPP presents risk of surface defects that can impair efficiency or cause total failure

    Your benefits with ZEISS

    • Optical inspection and layer thickness measurement with images from the ZEISS Axio Imager microscope
    • Automated high-resolution imaging and evaluation with ZEISS O-INSPECT duo
    • Nanometer-scale quantification of coated plate roughness and topography with ZEISS Smartproof 5 widefield confocal microscope
  • Welding into Bipolar Plates
    Quality Gate 3:

    Welding into Bipolar Plates

    Weld inspection and 3D geometry


    • Lateral alignment of single plates and total height essential for proper operation
    • Ensure unhindered gas and coolant flow, compliance with cell stacking tolerances, and fuel cell efficiency
    • Bipolar plate is formed from two welded single half-plates, with the weld seam crucial to conductivity and mechanical stability

    Your benefits with ZEISS

    • Capture the 3D structure on both sides with the ZEISS DotScan sensor on a ZEISS CMM
    • Non-destructive 3D scanning for evaluation of 3D geometry including lateral alignment and deviations in thickness
    • Detailed and accurate high-resolution 3D data from ZEISS METROTOM 1500 CT or ZEISS Xradia Versa 620 X-ray microscope
  • Coating and Cutting of Layers
    Quality Gate 4:

    Coating and Cutting of Layers

    Crack formation and 2D geometry


    • Ultra-thin electrode layer coating must be analyzed for cracks, bubbles, particle contamination, and inhomogeneity
    • Position and orientation of individual layers influences energy conversion efficiency in the fuel cell
    • 2D geometry analysis must be performed on single layers to establish dimensions of edges and recesses
    • Need entirely defect-free MEA to develop full performance

    Your benefits with ZEISS

    • Crack analysis using light microscope ZEISS Axio Imager and scanning electron microscopes such as ZEISS GeminiSEM
    • Determine recess size and position plus coating margin in relation to reference edge
    • Easy measurement of these characteristics with optical edge detection technology and integrated backlight in ZEISS O-INSPECT
    • Image acquisition and defect detection with ZEISS O-INSPECT duo
  • MEA Stacking
    Quality Gate 5:

    MEA Stacking

    Layer analysis, volume analysis, and technical cleanliness


    • Avoid contamination to ensure fuel cell function, quality, and service life
    • Ensure consistent MEA layers and properties by testing sample sections
    • 3D volume analysis for process development and defect understanding
    • Fully inspect all MEAs for coating defects to avoid performance drop

    Your benefits with ZEISS

    • Particles identified with ZEISS Axio Zoom V.16 microscope, analyzed with electron microscopy, processed with ZEISS software
    • Capture the size, shape, quantity, composition, origin, and metallic content of particles > 5 μm
    • Analyze layer continuity and thickness with the ZEISS Axio Imager
    • Non-destructive 3D volume acquisition with the ZEISS Xradia 620 Versa X-ray microscope and its two-stage magnification
  • Final Fuel Cell Stacking
    Quality Gate 6:

    Final Fuel Cell Stacking

    Layer analysis and volume analysis


    • Monitor stacked fuel cells (BPPs and MEAs) to ensure consistency of fuel cell stack layers and their properties
    • Enhance process development and understanding of defects via 3D volume analysis

    Your benefits with ZEISS

    • Analyze small samples using X-ray technology to ensure layer continuity
    • Analyze stack geometries and alignment with the non-contact confocal white light sensor ZEISS DotScan on a ZEISS CMM

Extra insights into quality assurance for fuel cell systems

  • Measurement of a Fuel Cell Bipolar Plate: Multiple measuring tasks handled by precision ZEISS technology
  • Measurement and non-contact Inspection of Bipolar Plates with the 2-in-1 system ZEISS O-INSPECT duo

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