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RandomMrdan's avatar

What are your thoughts on the Bloom Box? Can it change the world?

Asked by RandomMrdan (7436points) February 25th, 2010

I just heard about this last night, and it seems as though it could work, and change the way we power our homes, businesses and so on. I’m not sure what to think about it though… there seems to be a lot of skeptics.

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15 Answers

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Its a great idea. I’d like to know what the initial outlay is, and if it is viable for a home power bill, but anything capable of running on household waste can’t be a bad thing!

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

Sounds like a good idea. I heard, as well, that the president was going to open another nuclear power plant. Like we need another one. I sounds like it would be a very positive, green alternative. I hope it works.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@py_sue What exactly is wrong with another nuclear plant? It can lead to decomissioning some of the old coal or oil ones, which can only be a good thing for the environment. Nuclear is the only viable, clean method of bulk power production we have. But we digress…..

LostInParadise's avatar

I would need more information. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. I would like to know how economically the Boom Boxes can run off of recyclable sources.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@lostinparadise in the link there is a video clip that stated google saved 100k in electricity costs, and they power their bloom box using bio gas.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

I want to see it work for myself. A few years ago, some company claimed to have made a breakthrough in quantum computing, but they would not allow independent verification of their claims, and they sort of went away.

This device appears to be a fuel cell that can run on natural gas or biofuels. If it really is, that’s huge. Current fuel cell technology relies on pure hydrogen, which costs a buttload of money to make in quantity and is hard to store and distribute as well.

A few years ago, they were promising us methanol fuel cells for our laptops and cell phones, but I can’t buy one.

I hope the thing is real, and I hope it works. But I’ll hold on to my skepticism for now.

pikipupiba's avatar

I would be skeptical, but companies are already using them to power their buildings. Google, eBay, even Staples! This is ‘proof’ enough for me!

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@pikipupiba , I’m considerably less skeptical about this this than I am about a functioning quantum computer. The technological challenges are far less daunting, e.g., I know methanol fuel cells already exist, but nobody has figured out how to make them inexpensive enough for mass marketing.

Bloom claims they’ll eventually be able to make these things small enough and cheap enough that individual homeowners will be able to buy them. The average U.S. home consumes 936 KWH of electicity per month, which averages out to 1.3 KW of power at any given time. But that is average demand over a month – my wife has a hair dryer (I think it’s really a leaf blower) that uses over 1.8 KW when it’s on. With all of the other stuff that’s powered on – the air conditioning, for instance – I probably need around 5KW available on demand. So I would need a power plant capable of producing 5KW in my house.

The ones Bloom is producing now generate around 100KW of electricity each and cost about $800,000. If you can scale that linearly, you’re talking $8000/KW, so I’d need to shell out $40,000 for a 5KW Bloom box to power my house. I can’t afford that, and I don’t believe the costs of the device would be linear with respect to power output.

That’s not to say these things don’t have potential. But right now, they are far too expensive to pan out. If Bloom can get the costs down and demonstrate reliability, this is going to be a monster. Those are monster-sized ifs, though.

john65pennington's avatar

I just wonder if brown sand is used or do they use white sand? it appears to be hopeful as a fuel/energy replacement for the future. its use at Ebay is impressive.

Shuttle128's avatar

Unless this thing gets more than 60% fuel efficiency it won’t displace combined cycle natural gas power plants. Most fuel cells get efficiencies from 30 to 60% so unless this is much better than common efficiencies it’s not really worth the trouble. You’re still using some kind of hydrocarbon fuel, and it’s still producing byproducts so it’s certainly not emissions free. If you use biofuels then it might be carbon neutral.

It is encouraging that ebay and google are using it already, but I’m still pretty skeptical.

susanc's avatar

Ebay and google can practice economies of scale that private households cannot. Need to do neighborhood box, maybe.

MrsDufresne's avatar

I think it’s a spectacular idea. I saw a show about it yesterday. I really hope he can find a way to mass produce them at an affordable price.

ETpro's avatar

I think it is a bit early to say for sure, but it certainly shows signs of being a transformative technology. The devil’s always in the details. How low can manufacturing and maintenance costs go? But even the prototypes in testing are doing remarkably well. Ebay reports their installation will pay for itself in 3 years. The only serious maintenance issues they have had were will clogging of the filters on the air intake. That seems like a technical hurdle that is one we can easily clear.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Well we already talked about it in person but I think its legit, they have 400m in private investments, they have more businesses than just Ebay and Google using their boxes, and they even have Collin Powell on the board of directors which despite his U.N. debacles still carries a good amount of credibility.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@MrsDufresne , I read an article yesterday that says Bloom hopes to sell home units that produce around 5KW for something in the neighborhood of $3000 – in about 10 years. I would go for that. They’ve already produced higher efficiency at lower cost than competing devices already being sold in Japan.

The same article compared the cost of Bloom units to solar and wind alternatives and found that solar still has a cost advantage. The problem you have with both solar and wind is availability. Both require storage batteries to meet demand when their primary energy sources aren’t available. Fuel cells don’t have that issue. Fuel cells of this type do, however, have carbon emissions, albeit much less than coal-fired electric plants for the same amount of energy produced.

Still very promising.

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