Monday, August 30, 2010

CBSNews: The Bloom Box

Large corporations in California have been secretly testing a new fuel cell that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid.

They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money. Will we have one in every home someday? Lesley Stahl reported on the Bloom Box, Sunday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Fuel cells were invented over a century ago and have been used in practically every NASA mission since the 1960's, but until now, they have not gained widespread adoption because of their inherently high costs.

Legacy fuel cell technologies like proton exchange membranes (PEMs), phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFCs), and molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs), have all required expensive precious metals, corrosive acids, or hard to contain molten materials.

Combined with performance that has been only marginally better than alternatives, they have not been able to deliver a strong enough economic value proposition to overcome the status quo.

Some makers of legacy fuel cell technologies have tried to overcome these limitations by offering combined heat and power (CHP) schemes to take advantage of their wasted heat.

For decades, experts have agreed that solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) hold the greatest potential of any fuel cell technology. With low cost ceramic materials, and extremely high electrical efficiencies, SOFCs can deliver attractive economics without relying on CHP.

But until now, there were significant technical challenges inhibiting the commercialization of this promising new technology. SOFCs operate at extremely high temperature (typically above 800°C).

Bloom has addressed these engineering challenges. With breakthroughs in materials science, and revolutionary new design, Bloom's claims its SOFC technology is a cost effective, all-electric solution.

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