Shopping? Check out our latest product comparisons

Bloom Box fuel cell system could provide clean power to your home, and your car

By

February 23, 2010

Bloom Energy founder, K.R. Sridhar, and the fuel cell that forms the heart of the Bloom Bo...

Bloom Energy founder, K.R. Sridhar, and the fuel cell that forms the heart of the Bloom Box

Bloom Energy has definitely generated some buzz this week with a story on 60 Minutes ahead of the official launch this Wednesday of the Bloom Box – an electricity generating fuel cell box designed to sit in the back yard and provide enough power to reliably, more cleanly and cheaply power a house.

The Bloom Box actually started life as a solar powered device to make oxygen for breathing and hydrogen to power vehicles on Mars as a part of a scrapped NASA project. Bloom Energy founder, K.R. Sridhar, realized that if he reversed the process he could generate electricity by feeding oxygen and fuel (hydrogen) in the cell.

The secretive company has been operating for eight years and the 60 Minutes report was the first time the secret behind the Bloom Box has been revealed. Unlike many hydrogen fuel cells that require expensive precious metal, the Bloom box fuel cell is built from an extremely cheap ceramic material – sand.

The ceramic disks that form the core of the Box are painted with special “inks” – green on one side and black on the other. The disk acts as an electrode so that at high temperatures, a hydrocarbon fuel - ethanol, biodiesel, methane, or natural gas - on one side of the cell attracts oxygen ions from the other. As the ions are pulled through the solid core, the resulting electrochemical reaction creates electricity.

The disks are stacked together separated by a cheap metal alloy. A stack of 64, which is around the size of a house brick, can generate enough power to run a small business. The size of the entire unit needs to be bigger to accommodate other components such as the fuel source supply.

Although the process consumes hydrocarbons, Sridhar says it emits only about half the greenhouse gases of conventional energy sources because it doesn't involve carbon-releasing combustion.

And because one of the byproducts of the Bloom Box is hydrogen, it could be used to create fuel for the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. And in the meantime it can generate electricity to power hybrid and electric vehicles.

Fuel cells have promised so much over the years so it’s hardly surprising the skeptics have been out in force after the report. But lending credibility to the technology is the fact that companies such as Google and eBay have been trialing the Bloom Box. Bloom Boxes have apparently been powering a Google data-center for the past 18 months, while eBay claims its five Bloom Boxes have saved over US$100,000 in electricity costs over the past nine months.

Currently the boxes cost between US$700,000 and $800,000, but Sridhar thinks he can get the cost of one down to below US$3,000 making them affordable enough for every home. But he anticipates a five to ten year time-frame to accomplish this.

We'll be keeping an eye on this promising tech so stay tuned for more details after the launch this week.

The 60 Minutes report can be seen here.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
Tags
4 Comments

What else is being worked on hidden in this world, time to come out and play. :-)

BirdMan Ed
23rd February, 2010 @ 09:09 am PST

can't wait to see this develop further...too good to be true...will be a real game changer...

Mohammad R Himayathullah
23rd February, 2010 @ 02:05 pm PST

This does sound too good to be true. It reminds me of the compressed air car saga. I am surprised the Bloom Box costs so much, when the construction materials seem to be cheap and basic. Also, I can't imagine that much hydrogen would be released. It is suggested that this could be used to power a fuel cell. Maybe the water produced by the fuel cell could be split to made generate oxygen and hydrogen......I think I'm going round in circles! How about fitting one into a car?

Does anyone remember the fire station somewhere in New York that has a hot water generator that seems to run on nothing? I can't remember the exact details.

windykites1
24th February, 2010 @ 05:41 am PST

This looks wonderfull !... but why is this technology so confidential. They should be talking about it, and selling it all year round. Who are the competitors around the world?.

carmod
4th March, 2010 @ 08:18 am PST
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 27,769 articles