What is a Bloom Box?

Bloom Box is an alternative energy source capable of generating electricity without plugging into the electrical grid. The box itself is something like a mini power plant and houses small fuel cells stacked on top of each other. These fuel cells act as batteries and produce clean energy from a mixture of fuel and oxygen. This is an adaptation of the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology, which generates electricity by oxidizing fuel.

The Bloom Box was invented by Dr. KR Sridhar, co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. Prior to the invention of the Bloom Box, Sridhar was an advisor to NASA; He has also worked at the University of Arizona as Director of the Space Technologies Laboratory (STL). The name for Sridhar’s invention came from his nine-year-old son, who thought the name would fit an invention he imagined would help lives and jobs flourish.

The heart of the Bloom Box is a flat fuel cell disk, about the same size as an index card. The counter is made of plain beach sand, baked and segmented into squares. Using dyes created by Sridhar, the fuel cell is painted black on one side and green on the other. Oxygen is pumped into one side of the disc, and fuel to the other side. The combination of oxygen and fuel produces a chemical reaction that produces electricity.

One of these fuel cells is said to operate a light bulb. 64 of them, stacked together in a box small enough to hold in one hand, are said to run a small business or home. The cells are not picky about what fuel they consume. According to Dr. Sridhar, they are able to generate electricity using anything from fossil fuels to renewable energy, such as biofuels and solar power.

To see if Sridhar’s claims about his invention were true, several companies signed on to test the Bloom Box. Big name companies such as Google, FedEx, Wal-Mart and eBay were among those who installed Bloom boxes in select locations. The results found that several boxes were capable of operating a significant percentage of large business studios. John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, reports that the boxes generated 15 percent of campus power, producing more electricity at a faster rate than solar panels he had installed on the roof.

The Bloom Box was largely funded by John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins, a Silicon Valley, California venture capital company. Both Doerr and Dr. Sridhar have stated that the purpose of the box is to replace the electric grid, which provides a cheaper, cleaner and more accessible form of energy to the world.


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