The Bloom Box: K.R. Sridhar's Hope for an Alternative Energy Fortune
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The Bloom Box: K.R. Sridhar's Hope for an Alternative Energy Fortune

CEO K.R. Sridhar of Bloom Energy believes his Bloom Box will provide cheap electricity to the masses and untold profits to his company, Bloom Energy.

In late February of this year, K.R. Sridhar, a native of India who moved to the United States and eventually became the CEO of Bloom Energy, announced a new piece of technology marketed as the Bloom Box. The Bloom Box is Bloom Energy's claim to fame, and it is the most recent hot news item within a technology that has had a checkered past: fuel cells. Formerly, companies that have posted exciting advances in fuel cell technology have received interest from venture capital companies followed by a boom and then bust cycle as the potential profit from the technology has proven to be significantly less than expected. Ballard Power Systems is one such example. In the 1990's, Ballard received international attention when it revealed its work on fuel cell technology and hinted that a hyper-efficient automobile would soon emerge. As the reality of fuel cell technology manifested itself as a much slower process, however, interest in Ballard's activities declined.

Boom and Bust or Boom and Bloom?

The movie above shows part of the footage of Bloom Energy's press release event this month, where they advertised their popular new product, the "Bloom Box." A number of notable figures offered support, including Bloom board member Colin Powell and Governor Schwarzenegger. Bloom Energy has followed a familiar pattern within alternative energy circles: it has excited great consumer interest in its products and gotten a few large companies (notably Yahoo) to purchase and advocate its product. The venture-capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers has begun sponsoring the company's Bloom Box, but press releases and statements by some unbelieving observers have indicated that the product may soon wither like other popular fuel cell news stories.

What is Bloom?

The Bloom Box is a stationary fuel cell designed to generate power at any scale desired depending on the number of ceramic plates utilized in the device. Yahoo has purchased a number of the boxes and claims to have saved around $150,000 in power costs since they were installed. According to Sridhar, the fuel cell is not ideally suited to mobile applications such as automobiles, but it does work extremely well for stationary power generation. Sridhar originally was pursuing a technology that would generate oxygen for NASA Mars missions, but when the missions were scrapped, Sridhar reverse-engineered his product to intake oxygen from the atmosphere and generate electricity. The CEO believes his product is unique because it uses a specially-engineered ink on ceramic plates (arranged in a fashion similar to the title picture) to generate power. He thinks that he will be able to manufacture a home-sized Bloom Box for around $2,000-$3,000, and that when he is able to do this, his company will reap extremely large profits. A Bloom Box of approximately the size of a bread loaf is purported to be able to satisfy the energy needs of an average household, and to do so at a level of efficiency that would enable consumers to regain their investment in the device relatively quickly.

A lot of industry experts are skeptical about Sridhar's Bloom Box, however. Many have examined the designs and concluded that there is nothing new or particularly revolutionary to the Bloom Box technology, and they have also evaluated and largely disregarded his belief that he could manufacture the boxes cheaply enough that average citizens would be able to save a good deal of money from the boxes. Sridhar's claims are not all hot air, however. The blooming executive has managed to make fuel cell technology extremely portable, which can be beneficial for remote field operations that require an immediate and simple source of power (and one that does not pollute the landscape). The jury is out about whether or not Sridhar has stumbled upon a revolutionary new form of clean energy in his Bloom Box, but the company's success will depend upon how quickly and effectively they are able to market their product in the recent wash of press coverage they have received.

SOURCES

http://brainstormtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2010/02/19/is-k-r-sridhars-magic-box-ready-for-prime-time/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10461359-54.html

http://www.bloomenergy.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gJu53AaNmE

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solid_oxide_electrolyser_cell_prefab.jpg

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Comments (10)

"Oh, ye seekers after perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you pursued? Go and take your place with the alchemists." -Leonardo DiVinci Yet still, -I want too beleive!

I hope he succeeds!

Me too!

Thanks for a very readable introduction to a new technology, pro and con. -- Shastri

Is Sridhar’s Bloom Box affordable to the middle class people also? I am anxious to know this because when there is a new invention/product it is always benefited mostly to the upper class of people, if I am not mistaken.

Is Sridhar’s Bloom Box benefited to the middle class people also? I am asking this because every time this is a new invention or product then it is benefited to the upper class people only.

Is Sridhar’s Bloom Box benefited to the middle class people also? I am asking this because every time this is a new invention or product then it is benefited to the upper class people only.

Sridhar Suvvari

I Hope this will be a great thing - he succeeds!

He is trying to bring good things to the planet. Green energy a good way to fuel the economy. We have how world economy slipped into recession when oil touched $150 a barrel.

I wish him success this low profile ,down to earth Gentleman.

Sridhar Suvvari

udayashankar

Dear Prof.Sridhar,

If it is possible to run the Bloom Box on bio-gas from cow dung, may I request you to donate and install one at one School in the Tribal area of AndhraPradesh,India. That would benefit the Tribes and also the product attracts active attention of the concerned people.

Udaya Shankar

s.a.natarajan

for the developing nation like india a bloombox on the biogas from cowdung would moreandmore would be appropriate to suit indin ecconomy sansenior

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