The effects of change in diffusion layer width for constant diffusion layer thickness and constant gas-flow channel width are investigated with a straight channel model of a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell. A three-dimensional 10-cm long straight channel model of the PEM fuel cell is presented. The geometrical model includes diffusion layers on both the anode and cathode sides and the numerical model couples three-dimensional Navier-Stokes flow with electro-chemical reactions occurring in the fuel cell. Contours of the current density, anode water vapor concentration, anode water activity, water molecules per proton flux, and secondary flow velocity vectors at different cross sections are presented for the two diffusion layer widths. For the particular conditions and properties used for this study, the results show a marked difference between the base case (0.16-cm) and the wide (0.72-cm) diffusion layer. The current density is quite uniform at different axial cross sections and cross-flow sections for the 0.16-cm wide diffusion layer. However, for the 0.72-cm wide diffusion layer, the current density decreases more significantly in the axial direction near the edges of the diffusion layer. Numerical predictions of the water transport between cathode and anode across the width of the MEA show the delicate balance of diffusion and electro-osmosis and their effect on the current distribution along channel.

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