'Bloom Box' on 60 Minutes tonight

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EricF
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'Bloom Box' on 60 Minutes tonight

Post by EricF »

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/ ... 1135.shtml

Never heard of it before it was mentioned in a commercial yesterday. I think it is supposed to be discussed in tonights episode. I'm curious as to how it produces the electricity, at a glance it just looks like a capacitor.

KitemanSA
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Post by KitemanSA »

Bloom Energy has been working on fuel-cells for household operation for a decade or more. Looks like they are about to announce. Good!

Helius
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Post by Helius »

Saw 60 minutes. It always bothered me about Fuel Cells: What do they do with the Carbon energy content? Wouldn't the carbon tend to soot the cells?

Count me as a skeptic, but I'll keep an eye peeled.

EricF
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Post by EricF »

I didn't really understand how it is supposed to work. There were different companies testing it that ran solar, natural gas, or something else. So where is the bloom box supposed to fit in?

KitemanSA
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Post by KitemanSA »

That was quite a puff piece, no detail whatsoever. Of course, it isn't a science program, so...

Typically, the fuel (methane) is reformed before reaching the cells, so only the H2 from it gets to the cells. The CO2 is vented from the reformer. There seemed to be a LOT more in the box than that stack of cells, so I suspect a lot of it was reformer.

The piece mentions using "solar" energy. I suspect that was either via bio-mass conversion thru anaerobic digestion into CH4 and CO2 or possibly direct thermal conversion of H2O (plus C?) into H2 and O2 (CO2?). However they also mentioned use of "landfill gas" which is just methane and CO2 plus other minor components; the same as anaerobic digestor gas. (A landfill is an anaerobic digestor, just slower).

If this is indeed a "household unit", then almost assuredly there will be a "heat" component; that is, this will be a CHP (Combined Heat & Power) unit. Most of the carbon energy will go into the "H" part, hot water, etc., via the reformer. At least that is what most of these types of units I've seen designs on do.

The only thing THIS seems to have that is different is the cell manufactuing process itself. If it doesn't use the very expensive catalysts, or applies them in a more efficient way, this may succeed where others have not. We shall see, eventually!

JLawson
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Post by JLawson »

When she mentioned solar, he said 'We can use solar' - and then there was a quick cut. Makes you wonder what was edited out.

Seems to me this would be a decent power plant (in size, at least) for an electric car. And - this would (if the size permits) allow a significant change in auto configurations. The Chevy 'skateboard' chassis is an example - no whoppin' chunk of metal up front...

Hmm. Ebay and Google are using them. Interesting...
When opinion and reality conflict - guess which one is going to win in the long run.

Aero
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Post by Aero »

When she mentioned solar, he said 'We can use solar' - and then there was a quick cut. Makes you wonder what was edited out.
Yea, I was wondering about that, too.

As for transportation use, in California, natural gas powered buses are quite popular. Seems they could replace the IC engine with an electric motor, if they could find a suitable electric motor, then add the Bloom box of the right size (and price). They've already got the natural gas fueling infrastructure in place so it seems they could improve efficiency quite a bit. Improved efficiency translates directly into lower carbon emissions which was a big part of going to natural gas in the first place. That and diesel exhaust particulates.

I was wondering where all of the cost comes from. $800,000 for one box and those ceramic plates are supposed to be cheap. Or is it just priced by the market?
Aero

JLawson
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Post by JLawson »

Aero wrote:
When she mentioned solar, he said 'We can use solar' - and then there was a quick cut. Makes you wonder what was edited out.
Yea, I was wondering about that, too.

As for transportation use, in California, natural gas powered buses are quite popular. Seems they could replace the IC engine with an electric motor, if they could find a suitable electric motor, then add the Bloom box of the right size (and price). They've already got the natural gas fueling infrastructure in place so it seems they could improve efficiency quite a bit. Improved efficiency translates directly into lower carbon emissions which was a big part of going to natural gas in the first place. That and diesel exhaust particulates.

I was wondering where all of the cost comes from. $800,000 for one box and those ceramic plates are supposed to be cheap. Or is it just priced by the market?
It could be he said something like ""We can use solar to break down water and use the hydrogen." It'd be interesting to see what was left on the cutting room floor.

As far as cost goes, prototypes are usually pretty pricy. (I'd hate to think what the first hundred or so IPhone test units cost each...) Looked like there's a lot of hand-work involved in these units, wiring and plumbing and such. I'd think that a lot of it could be automated, and simplified - so the price will drop significantly. We don't hear what the actual output of those boxes is, and it's real hard to do a comparison without more info - but I found a 5MW turbine generator set for sale for $1.8 million, used, and a 500kw steam turbine generator for sale at $100k. So... I ain't got nuffin' as far as pricing equivalents go per kw/Mw. :)

It'll be interesting to see what happens with this. He at least has something in production, and prototypes that have been running in a real-world environment for 18 months. This doesn't seem like another BlackLight Power setup. (And I'm still not convinced BLP is a total scam - though they've taken a lot longer to get anything to market than is reasonable. Guess I'm an open-minded skeptic. Give me something that's been running for 18 months, like the BloomBox, and I'll start believing...)
When opinion and reality conflict - guess which one is going to win in the long run.

Robthebob
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Post by Robthebob »

still dont quite understand what this is doing. Fuel cells are supposed to store energy, so using fuel cells to generate energy... what?

I need an adult here! Someone explain what the bloom box is doing.
Throwing my life away for this whole Fusion mess.

KitemanSA
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Post by KitemanSA »

Robthebob wrote:.. Fuel cells are supposed to store energy, so using fuel cells to generate energy... what?
In this case, you are mistaken. Fuel cells are used cto convert "fuel" to electricity in an electrolytic "cell", hence "fuel cell". They are generators, not batteries.

Robthebob
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Post by Robthebob »

okay, sorry, just talked to my brother, he graduated with a chem engineering degree.

So you gotta keep refuel the fuel cell... that's cool. How long can these fuel cells last, putting out the amount of power claimed? A month tops?

I can see this being in cars, a lot tho, that should be his goal, put that in all cars... in fact wasnt the limiting factors for electric cars, the amount of time the batteries can last and how expansive it is?

I can see increase in efficiency, but i mean... it aint no nuclear energy.
Throwing my life away for this whole Fusion mess.

JLawson
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Post by JLawson »

Robthebob wrote:okay, sorry, just talked to my brother, he graduated with a chem engineering degree.

So you gotta keep refuel the fuel cell... that's cool. How long can these fuel cells last, putting out the amount of power claimed? A month tops?

I can see this being in cars, a lot tho, that should be his goal, put that in all cars... in fact wasnt the limiting factors for electric cars, the amount of time the batteries can last and how expansive it is?

I can see increase in efficiency, but i mean... it aint no nuclear energy.
You might want to take a look at the 60 Minutes video - EBay's been running these things for 18 months. All you gotta do is attach a gas line, and you're good indefinitely.

It ain't perfect, but it (IMHO) beats windmills and solar panels at the present state of THAT art...
When opinion and reality conflict - guess which one is going to win in the long run.

MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

An Australian version with way more technical detail:

http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/201 ... -cell.html
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

Robthebob
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Post by Robthebob »

JLawson wrote:...All you gotta do is attach a gas line, and you're good indefinitely...
I see what you did there. Just making the powerplant smaller and putting it right next to the house. That's pretty good... I wish there were some solid math and experimental results for people to see... like google said they saved so much money, that's a start... like how much more efficient? I mean anytime when you're charging energy in something and then turning that back into energy, you're losing efficency big time... so obtaining energy from the most original source is key.

So biofuel/renewable resources are key, like algae fuel, but then what efficency are biofuel/renewable resources at? As in how much energy is put in the process to get the biofuel? A lot to consider, but it could work very well all in the end. Except it's just not as awesome as the guy claims, I mean it's pretty sweet...
Throwing my life away for this whole Fusion mess.

Aero
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Post by Aero »

Fuel cells have been around for a long time, they flew on the Apollo capsules to the moon in the '60s. There are over a dozen basic types listed in the Wikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell
Natural gas fuel cells are not a new concept, the devil is in the details. I expect Bloom is the first one to have $400 million for development. That should be enough to work out a lot of details.

Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen via a catalyst to produce low voltage electricity, (the hydrogen economy). The reliability of the fuel cell itself is very high. Fuel cell systems using other than pure hydrogen as feed stock must first reform the fuel into hydrogen and "Other." The other is the problem. Methane, CH4, reforms to 4H + CO with atmospheric oxygen. CO burns with more oxygen to produce heat and CO2. But natural gas includes other gasses, like propane, butane, ethane as well as impurities. All of these "Other" cause problems. Again, $400 million should be enough to work out these problems, and if not then the natural gas fuel cell most likely will never be made to work.

Effiency -
The five-kilowatt Bloom box has supposedly become “a high-functioning machine,” and the story even shows a picture of the white refrigerator-looking box. In a successful test at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga over the past two years, engineers ran a Bloom box on natural gas for 6,000 hours and found it to be twice as efficient as a boiler burning natural gas, with 60 percent lower carbon emissions. Kleiner partner Aileen Lee told Gertner that the Bloom box can produce electricity using natural gas or a variety of liquid fuels, including ethanol.
From http://earth2tech.com/2008/10/06/bloom- ... fuel-cell/

From the 60 minutes story, the Bloom Box appeared to be hand assembled. How long will it be before the manufacturing is done in India? My bet would be, "Not very long at all."
Aero

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