Contact pressure distribution between bipolar plate (BPP) and gas diffusion layer (GDL) has significant impact on performance and life time of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. Most current studies for contact pressure prediction are based on finite-element analysis (FEA), requiring huge computation for the whole fuel cell assembly. Comparatively speaking, the more generalized and well-developed analytical methods are deficient in this field. The objective of this study is to propose a full-scale continuous equivalent model to predict GDL contact pressure effectively in the PEM fuel cell. Using the model, the nonuniform pressure distribution resulted from dimensional errors of metallic BPP and GDL could be obtained. First, a parameterized theoretical model of BPP/GDL assembly is established based on equivalent stiffness analysis of components, and definition methods of dimensional errors are proposed according to actual measurements and Monte Carlo simulation (MCS). Then, experiments are carried out to obtain the actual GDL contact pressure and the model results show good agreement with experimental results. At last, effects of dimensional errors are investigated. Acceptable assembly pressure for a given fuel cell is suggested based on the model. This model is helpful to understand the effect of the dimensional errors, and it also could be adopted to guide the manufacturing of BPP, GDL, and the assembling of PEM fuel cell.

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