My guess is that by now many of you might already have read about it. It is one of thing of discussion in the tech scene.
Tell you the truth, I was pretty much skeptic when news came out about unveiling on Feb 24, 2010. I am so tired of "one solution to all energy problems", "savior of future", and "cheap and free energy forever" kind of products that I found myself pretty much skeptic whenever a new product is launched in market.
"Bloom Box" (but the company wants to call it by name of "Bloom Energy Server", yeah they are trying to give it a computer-style name ) is nothing but fuel-cell. Fuel-cells are nothing new, many already in market by major companies. Some are working but many other are just show-pieces, but none working as their promised "solution to all energy needs". So what's new in Bloom Box?
Little background info
Okay, so a former NASA engineer named K. R. Sridhar (yeah an Indian guy. What? Are you expecting a Pakistani guy? But we have put all our "resources" to convert everybody to Islam . Yeah, that was a joke so get over it. ) developed a fuel-cell for NASA (when he was employee there) to produce oxygen on Mars. But as American economy started to topple and with space mission disasters, mission to Mars is way back right now. So he quit and started researching on his own and started a company in 2002. He reversed the same fuel-cell to consume oxygen (instead of producing) and fuel to produce electricity. Some nice work there. He deserve a lot of appreciation there.
How it works?
Well, as with most of other fuel-cells. A basic 4"x4" wafer is created using zirconium dioxide (extracted from sand) and definitely mixed with other oxides to make it stable and prevent cracking when heating and cooling of wafers. Then he put his special secret formula "ink" (paint) on both sides (green on one side and black on other side).
Here is the image of that fuel-cell:
That's the fuel-cell. Thin but 4"x4" and it produces about 25 watts electricity which is enough for a light bulb. Now do the math and how many you'll need of these fuel-cells to run your home? But this fuel-cell will not be used in this state because it will produce heat in chemical reaction up to 600C to 800C, therefore, it must be cool down properly to keep it within working range of temperature otherwise this ceramic wafer will crack.
What's the fuel?
On one side, the oxygen (air) is supplied and on the other side natural gas (or bio-gas) (in our country it is called Sui Gas) is supplied. A chemical reaction occurs in this fuel-cell and it produces electricity with heat as by-product of reaction. No moving parts and it produce electricity with half amount of fuel needed (compared to our current patrol+gas-kit generators). Because it has no moving parts, it is super quite compare to our noisy generators. The electricity produce is somewhere between 8 to 10 cents. If at 10 cents then it will be around Rs. 8 per k-watts (one unit). Cheaper than WAPDA.
Currently company is focusing on supplying to large corporates, rather than small consumers. As of now, each Bloom Box is hand made and one Bloom Box is produced in one day. 100kw Bloom Energy Server is $700,000–800,000. Company will launch home-consumer level boxes of 1kw for about $3000 (Rs. 240,000). About 5 years ago the price was about 25 times more than as of now. Therefore, Sridhar is optimistic that he'll be able to reduce price to $3000 for one-home-units. Currently, company is providing 10 years warranty.
Bloom is not the only company in fuel-cells. Many giant players are already in it, including General Electronics, United Technologies and Siemens to name a few, but many other companies around the globe (from Germany to Japan) are working on it and many have different patents. Expect much competition in next few years.
By far after reading all this information and many articles that I searched on Google, I was still skeptic that it might be a clever plot to earn money. But when I saw the list of current customers of Bloom, my confidence raised sharply. Google, eBay, Staples, Walmart, FedEx, Coca-Cola, and Bank of America. Google was the first customer and it has been running there for about 18 (or 16?) months successfully. I am impressed. Not all these companies are going to throw money just for tech gimmicks. It means this device works and they are saving some serious $$$ that's why they are using it and installing it.
It is not the ultimate solution for energy needs but it is definitely a good step. I am thinking that if such a device is available for $3000 in Pakistan then I would be happy to get one. Unlike solar, Bloom Box will generate electricity 24 hours. Unlike common generator+gas-kit, Bloom Box only consume half of Sui Gas. It also produces less carbon dioxide too. It is very quite compare to generators. And super of all, no more worry for load-shedding. However, the question is whether the output of our country's Sui Gas will be able to coup with demand, if people start to install Bloom Box?
How about if Pakistani government get large Bloom Boxes directly from this American company and install it on grid-stations and supply Sui Gas to it and distribute electricity. It will be a quick and easy solution to produce electricity that might lower some of load-shedding. I think Pakistani Government should be the first international customer of this device. We have our own resources of Sui Gas then why not use them. We are already using Sui Gas to produce electricity but this device is 100% more efficient then current generators. That's a big incentive for Pakistani Government.
Bloom Box on 60 minutes:
Bloom Box Launch:
* What do you guys think of it?
* First, watch above given links of video clips. Then post your opinions, thoughts and whether you'll purchase it if it is available in Pakistan in next 5 or 10 years?
* Should Pakistani government invest in Bloom Boxes to produce electricity from Sui Gas with double capacity?
* If Pakistani government purchase it then will it reduce some of our load-shedding?
* What will happen if China make cheap copies of Bloom Box? That will be given at the 1/4 rate of real Bloom Box.
* Sridhar also have planes for future (and patents) to produce hydrogen from carbon dioxide and water (while electricity will be given from solar cells). Will this "dream machine" ever be feasible?
* Will Bloom succeed or will GE break it with their product in next few months or a year?
* Is world starts to change in term of energy produced or is it just a hype and we are still going to use whatever we have been using in 20th century?
* Will Bloom Box's fuel-cell work in long run (after 10 or 20 years)?
Start posting, I am waiting for your opinions and thoughts guys.
P.S. Yeah, I am excited for this product even after reading negative reviews on internet.