Is there a “yttria stabilized zirconia” fuel cell in your future?

If you happened to catch the 60 Minutes show on CBS Sunday night, you saw a segment on a new start-up that has developed a new kind of fuel cell called the Bloom box. The company seems to most notable because VC firms have invested over $100 million in it so far, considered a huge investment in those kinds of circles.

As I write this, the formal unveiling of the cell is today. The new development has it's share of skeptics. There is a nice piece about it at physorg.com and a HUGE comment section at the end. A writer at Wired Online looked up the patents taken out by inventor K.R. Sridhar.

I watched the 60 Minutes segment. What was troubling was that Sridhar said his Bloom box could take natural gas as a fuel (actually it could take almost anything as a fuel) but he didn't give any kind of conversion efficiency figures. So it is hard to judge what kind of development this really is. His whole presentation on the show boiled down to a, "Sam tried it and he thinks it's great," type argument wherein he named some of the firms that have installed prototypes at over $700,000 a piece.

Perhaps we'll all know more about this today.

UPDATE: Well, after the unveiling, it seems the big claim to fame of the Bloom box is its elmination of precious metal ceramics in its construction. The founder says you might see one of these things in your home in "about a decade."

Another plus: "Bloom servers are 60 percent cleaner than coal-fired power plants....." Well, I'm sure they are, but most new electric generation facilities are going to natural gas fuel sources which are themselves quite clean. Anyway, more coveage of the announcement and a lot of kibitzing in the comment section can be found here:

http://www.physorg.com/news186246027.html

Here is the Physorg.com piece: http://www.physorg.com/news186123245.html

And here is the piece over at Wired: http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/02/is-bloom-energy%E2%80%99s-secret-ingredient-zirconia/

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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