Flow maldistribution among polymer electrolyte fuel-cell (PEFC) channels is of concern because this leads to nonuniform distributions of fuel and oxidizer, which in turn result in nonuniform reaction rates in the catalyst layers and thus detrimentally affect PEFC performance and durability. Channels with low flow rates risk flooding by liquid water. This can cause catalyst support corrosion and hence the undesirably accelerated aging of PEFCs. Multiphase flow computations are performed to examine the effects of gas diffusion layer (GDL) intrusion and manifold design on reducing flow maldistribution. Velocity field, hydrodynamic pressure, and liquid saturations are computed in the parallel gas channels using the multiphase-mixture formulation in order to quantify the flow nonuniformity or maldistribution among PEFC channels. It is shown that, when channel flow is in single phase, employing two splitter plates in the header manifold can bring down the flow maldistribution to less than half of that for the case with 20% area maldistribution due to the GDL intrusion. When channel flow occurs in the two-phase regime, the liquid-water front can be pushed downstream and the effect of GDL intrusion on the maximum liquid saturation can be decreased by more than one-third by using flow splitters.

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