Could the Wondrous Bloom Box Power Your Alt-Fuel Car and Smartphone Too?

Bloom box

Bloom Box has hit the media in a huge way, accompanied with all sorts of fanfare and skepticism. The company's CEO has now appeared to explain some of its scientific secrets, and it may be even cleverer than you've thought.

By now you'll have heard that Bloom Box already has some extremely high-profile first customers, including eBay, and that its claims to be an eco-friendly alternative fuel source that generates electricity with an efficiency of 50% to 55% (beating solar power's 10% to 15%) and produces only water and CO2 as by-products. Within 10 years, Bloom Box imagines improved reliability, efficiency and all-around design so a unit in your home could spew out a kilowatt of power for an initial lay-out of just $3,000.

But the scientifically inclined among you may have pondered on exactly how you make a large-scale, high-temperature ceramic fuel cell without it structurally failing, and the eco-conscious of you will be pondering if its actually an efficient device when you take into account the overall system (including what to do with its by-products.)

And this is where K.R. Sridhar's been amazingly forthcoming with data. Due to thermodynamic considerations, high-temperature fuel cells can be more efficient than low-temperature ones, but Bloom Boxes don't just waste that heat--it's captured and re-cycled into the system. And the company's successfully engineered its metal and ceramic components so they expand at the same rate under heating, meaning the fragile ceramic plates don't fracture under the stress.

As for the by-products, the CO2 isn't actually a significant problem, since it compares extremely favorably with the CO2 load of power-station provided juice. And the extremely pure H2O that pours out of the system could have one more surprising use--if it's captured, and connected up to an electrolysis unit powered by a separate solar unit (or even from spare energy put out by the Bloom Box under conditions of low demand) you can generate pure oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be stored and "recycled" as a portable fuel source for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (or even pocket gadgets)...effectively reducing the fuel burden of a househol and car to a single fuel source, for the Bloom Box. A more complex system could actually capture the CO2 and hydrogen and recombining them into a methane-like fuel.

In other words, Bloom Box is, if all goes well, an invention with a powerful future already mapped out for it. Still skeptical? Check out the video interview Sridhar gave to GreenTechMedia below, where he explains all this and more.

[Via Greentechmedia]

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4 Comments

  • Becca

    Hello non-engineers: you are right to be excited but is is wrong to compare the efficiency of a solar cell to a fule cell. Efficiency of a solar cell is how much of the suns energy (free) is being converted to useable electrical energy. Efficiency of a fuel cell is how much of the nat gas energy (not free) is being converted to usable electrical energy. It is apples to oranges. I am not saying one is obviously better than the other because solar panel systems are not free and neither are pipelines etc just that parenthetical note is useless and should not be reused.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Jeremy. It all does look promising doesn't it? Exciting stuff, methinks.
    @John. Um... in ten years, your future electrical needs will be lower (I, and the environment hope). And a generator, you know, isn't very green tech.

  • John Freas

    Above you state that the Bloombox "could spew out a kilowatt of power for an initial lay-out of just $3,000." Heck for a few hundred bucks I can buy a portable generator that makes a lot more than a kilowatt! Please help me with the math because the ratings for even a fixed-in-place backup generator (that won't run the whole house) starts in the 10s of kW.

  • Jeremy Walker

    This is my kind of guy, green energy capitalist that understands the science and the bottom line. He even understands that competition is good for the product and the customer. Thanks for the clip.