Friday, March 12, 2010

The Magic "Bloom-box"

Several thousand years ago, the city of Syracuse rejoiced the discovery of Archimedes. No sooner he stepped into the bath tub, than he shouted "Eureka!!!(I have found it)." But this Indian born American scientist makes a difference, as he never comes out to reveal the secrets of his Invention, so called "Bloom-box"- an alternate power source that will lower your electricity bills~!

Dr. K.R. Sridhar, the founder and CEO of Bloom Energy Server technologies in Silicon Valley is the talk of town, today in every nook and corner of the world. He unveils a new fuel cell system that can run on a variety of fuels. The new invention can cut off carbon-dioxide emissions in half compared to the emissions produced by the conventional power sources.

He developed this idea while working in NASA to find a way of producing oxygen for the astronauts who were making their voyage to Mars. This innovation took 8 years to complete perfectly(2002-2010).Cheers!

So, How exactly it works?? Let's see.
Bloom box is just a "planar Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)" which uses a common "sand" like powder to produce clean electricity with neither dirty combustion nor corrosive acids. It is made up of a large number of ceramic plates stacked atop each other that can be assembled into a unit of any size.
Each cell is an alloy plate between two ceramic layers and has the dimension 100 mm x 100 mm. Each side is coated with special "inks" that can act as anode and cathode respectively. The green side represents the anode and is coated with Nickel-oxide based ink, whereas the black side (cathode?...yes it is.) is coated with Lanthanum Stronium manganite(probably). 
They use Samarium doped Ceria/Yttria stabilized Zirconia(Zirconium dioxide) electrolyte, catalysed by nickel or Ruthenium-Platinum-Tungsten alloy(PtRuW). 
Each cell produces a power of 25 watt
The scientist has given us the liberty of choosing our own fuel. But gasoline(petrol), bio-fuel and  natural gas are most preferable.(What? Ah!Strictly No Pizzas, No French fries!)
The input bulk can be stored in a talk adjacent to the unit, where the hydrocarbon fuel is to be stored. Oxide ion transfer takes place between air and fuel which pushes electrons into the external circuit, like every electrochemical cell.
The 100 kilowatt module with multiple stacks and components for converting DC power produced in the stacks into AC power to be used domestically, is alone about the size of a parking lot. This module can power a mini-supermarket, says the sources. But this is sufficient to power 1000 homes for a day.

Soft-corners of this "Bloom-box" :
1) It is "green".(Here, I didn't mean the color, ok?) The best feature is that it can hold carbon-dioxide emissions within the limit. Hydrogen is the by-product which is eco-friendly.
2) It eliminates the necessity of grids to distribute electricity. This is one of the significant features of "Bloom-box". Each industry can hire their own unit and reduce the cost of construction and maintenance of electricity grids. 
3) Durability matters! Sridhar tells the media that each unit can live up to a maximum of 10 years.
4) The unit produces no nuisance. It is clean, dry and devoid of corrosive acids. They say it produces no noise, no smell and even doesn't vibrate! Claps!! (Terribly tired of the noise here)
5) I eliminates various energy losses that reduce the efficiency of rotating turbines.
So, this seems to be a good machine, yeah? Err...Let's consider some of the drawbacks to be improvised to have a perfect finish up.

Points to be considered: 
1) High cost of installation. Each 100 kW unit costs $700,000. The fuel cost adds fuel to the fire! Roughly each kWh costs 16 cents. $700,000 is not an easy joke!
2) The efficiency is roughly 52% => 48% of input energy takes the other forms of energy(mainly heat). 
3) High temperature of around 700 degree centigrade is produced. High temperature is required to initiate the electrochemical reaction, which is then sustained by the components.
Using Platinum catalyst lowers the working temperature-range than using nickel, but the cost of platinum must also be considered. 
Such an high temperature may not be amicable. But, an arrangement for fast pyrolysis can be installed adjacent to the unit which converts bio-mass into electric power, as the operating range is close to 700 degree centigrade.

Trivia about this magical "Bloom-box": 
The name "Bloom" was credited to Sridhar's 9 years old son who believed that jobs, lives and environment would bloom. So, this creates a good opinion on the emotional qualities of the Indian-clan scientist.
As Wilson said, "As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it", Sridhar stands a good solicitor with a good kind of "cost-account" play.
Companies like Google, Walmart and ebay have bought this plan and in few months, these cells will be set into their operation. Other companies include Bank of America, Coca-cola, FedEx, Cox Enterprises and Staples. 
400 kW system powers a building at Google that contains a experimental data center. Walmart has installed Bloom modules at two locations where they generate between 60 to 80 percent of the electricity for the stores.

Watch the CEO's views on Bloom energy server.

I hope, the technology shall cross the ocean soon and reach our holy land! 

No comments:

Post a Comment