Digital News Report – Bloom Energy will be telling the world about their company Wednesday, but we have uncovered some information regarding their technology. Rather than use expensive platinum and hydrogen to generate power from a fuel cell, the company uses inexpensive silicon wafers painted with a special ink with natural gas.
Each Bloom Box is made up of 64 wafers with green ink painted on one side and black on the other. Made from beach sand, the ceramic wafers are stacked and separated by inexpensive metal plates before being place in a small box. The box only measures about 6-inches square but can provide enough energy to maintain a house in Europe.
The small box is central to the technology. You will also need a gas like methane (renewable bio-gas) or natural gas. Previously, fuel-cell technology used expensive hydrogen to create a current. The cost and energy to produce the hydrogen gas was a problem. Natural gas is in abundance.
The company has not revealed details and their website is very barren with information, but it is believed that the gas is used to push protons and electrons through the wafer. Typical fuel cells use a proton-conducting polymer membrane to separate the anode and cathode.
The company hopes to see their boxes power homes. John Doerr, venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers which is financing the venture, told Leslie Stahl with CBS 60 Minutes, “The Bloom box is intended to replace the grid…for its customers. It’s cheaper than the grid, it’s cleaner than the grid.”
The Bloom Box technology appears to be viable and has been used by Wal-Mart, Staples, eBay, Google, and other companies. The solid-oxide fuel cell is considered very efficient and could be the solution to the world’s energy problem.
By: Sam Lee