Evaluation of the corrosion resistance of Ni(P)Cr coatings for bipolar plates by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy

F. F. Marzo, M. Alberro, A. P. Manso, X. Garikano, C. Alegre, M. Montiel, A. Lozano, F. Barreras. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 2020, 45 (40), p. 20632-20646

In the present research, the corrosion resistance of Ni–P and Ni–P–Cr coatings on AA7075-T6 aluminum plates under simulated anodic and cathodic conditions of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) has been studied by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). Three Ni–P coatings 20 μm, 30 μm, and 40 μm thick applied by electroless deposition were tested. Besides, a two-layer Ni–P–Cr coating 30 μm thick was also analyzed. It was formed by an inner Ni–P layer, and an outer 10 μm thick chromium one added by electroplating. Corrosion tests were combined with interfacial contact resistance (ICR), roughness, contact angle, and SEM-EDX measurements. The best results were obtained for the 20 μm Ni–P and the two-layer Ni–P–Cr coatings, although the latter showed a high ICR value due to the high electrical resistivity of the chromium oxide surface formed. It was verified that coating degradation occurs when the electrolyte penetrates the micro-cracks and the nodular surface interfaces, reaching the base metal and causing the coating delamination. This behavior is associated with a sharp decrease in the polarization resistance (Rp) of the equivalent circuit model fitted to the EIS results.