A polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell is provided with electrodes supplied with a reactant on each side of a catalyzed membrane assembly (CMA). The fuel cell includes a metal mesh defining a rectangular flow-field pattern having an inlet at a first corner and an outlet at a second corner located on a diagonal from the first corner, wherein all flow paths from the inlet to the outlet through the square flow field pattern are equivalent to uniformly distribute the reactant over the CMA. In a preferred form of metal mesh, a square weave screen forms the flow-field pattern. In a particular characterization of the present invention, a bipolar plate electrically connects adjacent fuel cells, where the bipolar plate includes a thin metal foil having an anode side and a cathode side; a first metal mesh on the anode side of the thin metal foil; and a second metal mesh on the cathode side of the thin metal foil. In another characterization of the present invention, a cooling plate assembly cools adjacent fuel cells, where the cooling plate assembly includes an anode electrode and a cathode electrode formed of thin conducting foils; and a metal mesh flow field therebetween for distributing cooling water flow over the electrodes to remove heat generated by the fuel cells.