A nitridation treated stainless steel article (such as a bipolar plate for a proton exchange membrane fuel cell) having lower interfacial contact electrical resistance and better corrosion resistance than an untreated stainless steel article is disclosed. The treated stainless steel article has a surface layer including nitrogen-modified chromium-base oxide and precipitates of chromium nitride formed during nitridation wherein oxygen is present in the surface layer at a greater concentration than nitrogen. The surface layer may further include precipitates of titanium nitride and/or aluminum oxide. The surface layer in the treated article is chemically heterogeneous surface rather than a uniform or semi-uniform surface layer exclusively rich in chromium, titanium or aluminum. The precipitates of titanium nitride and/or aluminum oxide are formed by the nitriding treatment wherein titanium and/or aluminum in the stainless steel are segregated to the surface layer in forms that exhibit a low contact resistance and good corrosion resistance.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH
This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 awarded to UT-Battelle, LLC, by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in this invention.