There have been rumblings for some time about a mysterious little box that could change the energy world forever. It’s not much to look at, but a Bloom Box is basically a fuel-cell power plant the size of a door stop that can power a house year-round; larger ones, meanwhile, can power just about anything. In the words of Bloom’s CEO, their little boxes could entirely replace the grid as we know it.
Google has been quietly powering one of its data centers with four of these magic boxes for 18 months, and FedEx, Walmart, Staples, and eBay have been trying out the technology as well. eBay’s CEO says they have already saved $100,000 in electricity costs in just nine months.
So how does it work? They take some beach sand, bake it into a ceramic disk, and then coat each side with proprietary green and black inks. Then they stack these disks, separated by cheap metal plates, and feed oxygen onto one side, and fuel onto the other. The two combine in the cell and presto: emissions-free electricity.
It bears reminding that people have been excited about fuel cells for some time, and that the challenges facing their widespread use presist-specifically price. Bloom’s CEO seems optimistic they can get the price down, and get utilities on board for a scaled implementation country wide.
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