Meet the Bloom box (images)
Bloom Energy unveils its Bloom Energy server, or "Bloom box," Wednesday morning, which it says will deliver ample amounts of power in a small package.<br><br>
Silicon Valley-based Bloom Energy unveiled its Bloom Energy server, or "Bloom box," Wednesday morning, which it says will deliver ample amounts of power in a small package--and change people's dependency on traditional power grids.
Here, you can see one being installed.
While not available to consumers just yet, Bloom Energy held its press conference mostly to announce that its technology is indeed viable, and that it is currently beta testing it with a number of large companies including Google, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and Cox.
Going forward, Bloom plans to bring the technology into people's homes, and eventually mix it with other types of green power technology, such as solar, in order to create a new type of power grid.
Bloom Fuel Cell
The box provides distributed power generation, allowing customers to efficiently create their own electricity on site, the company said.
The server, or "Bloom box," was unveiled at a Wednesday event hosted by eBay at its Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters.
Box under wraps
Sridhar and his magic sand
Underneath the black covering, Bloom Energy founder K.R Sridhar unveiled a box of sand.
Sridhar asks "Why is this so different?" Bloom Energy takes a certain type of sand, which Sridhar says is plentiful and available in several different parts of the world, and bakes into ceramic membranes that are a key part in making the fuel cells. Sridhar calls the process "powder to power."
Schwarzenegger and Sridhar
Guests included California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, here posing for a photo opp with Sridhar.
Schwarzenegger says he loves hanging out with this Sridhar, because he's not the only one with an accent.
Schwarzenegger goes on to tout Bloom Energy's spirit, which he says is similar that held by people who flocked to California during the gold rush. In that same spirit, he's proposing a package to exempt the purchase of green equipment from California sales tax, a move he hopes will help speed up adoption in homes and businesses.
How Bloom works
Courtesy of Bloom Energy's press kit, these images show how much power you can get from one Bloom box energy server. In this case, it's a box with more power cells than you'd find in a normal home install. But such a box could power an entire office building or 100 U.S. homes.
Sridhar forsees a model where each U.S. home has its own Bloom box, though the technology allows multiple dwellings to share the same server.
Sridhar with fuel cell
What goes into the fuel cell? Sridhar asks. Traditional fuel, natural gas, renewable fuel. Biomass gas, landfill gas, ethanol. Whatever you have, he says.
Sridhar says that to change a fuel, people can just begin pumping it into the unit. It will then automatically figure out what's going into it and keep working.
Seen here, Sridhar holds one of the finished fuel cells that goes into the Bloom box stack.
Box in hand
Google co-founder Larry Page
Bloom board member Colin Powell
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is a board member for maker Bloom Energy. Powell joked that he does not yet have one in his own home, but that he plans to get one installed when the snow from the East Coast melts.
Powell foresees the Bloom energy generator having big uses for the military, since traditional generators can be heavier, less efficient, and a tactical disadvantage, since their heat signatures can be detected more easily by enemy reconnaissance. However, Powell said he is not pushing development contracts with the current U.S. defense administration.
These are fuel cell stacks at the Bloom Energy production facility. According to founder K.R. Sridhar, "most" of the labor involved has been kept inside the U.S. during this part of the process, although that might change if and when the company reaches mass production.
One of the selling points for the Bloom Energy server is that it scales in the same way networking servers do. Sridhar says that just like servers, a bad cell does not bring the entire machine down. Instead, repair technicians can just swap it out without interrupting the flow of power to whatever it's connected to.
How the fuel cell works
Each cell is made up of three distinct parts. The middle is a ceramic membrane. It's then sandwiched between an anode and a cathode. As gas is pumped in, the combination forces oxygen ions through the membrane. It's the movement of oxygen through the cell that creates the electricity.
What makes the system particularly special is that Bloom Energy has found a way to do this without having to use more expensive metals, and without it suffering degradation down to corrosion. The real question is whether this technology will be able to hold up past the company's 10-year warranty.