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Piezo, the Bloom Box, and the future of energy

There are so many creative new ways of generating power that I just couldn't pick one.


This was mentioned in the comic. Piezoelectric power is power generated through pressure motion in a dielectric—something embedded in a floor tile, for instance. One idea that uses this phenomenon to its advantage is designer Alberto Villarreal's BrightWalk shoes. Whenever you take a step, you generate a minute amount of electricity that trickle charges devices that you are carrying around.

A few more:

  • The Sustainable Dance Club -- one much like the one created by EVOKE agents in Rio.
  • An article about Japan's railways installing piezoelectric flooring to power ticket gates.

The Bloom Box

Probably one of the most interesting things that I've come across recently. Bloom Energy has created Bloom Boxes, energy producing boxes that they say can power an entire house—or business. According to Engadget,

Bloom's design feeds oxygen into one side of a cell while fuel (natural gas, bio gas from landfill waste, solar, etc) is supplied to the other side to provide the chemical reaction required for power. The cells themselves are inexpensive ceramic disks painted with a secret green "ink" on one side and a black "ink" on the other. The disks are separated by a cheap metal alloy, instead of more precious metals like platinum, and stacked into a cube of varying capabilities -- a stack of 64 can power a small business like Starbucks.

While this still requires external fuel, it's a much more sustainable idea for locations all over the world. Fossil fuels are no longer needed and things like biofuel or alternative energy could provide the catalyst energy for these personal power plants. However, that's not the only good thing about the Bloom Box. It embodies EVOKE's breed of social innovation. You have what's basically a fuel cell that doesn't run at full efficiency. However, the wide range of input fuels, the cheap cost, cheaper innovative materials, and accessibility make it something that could really go somewhere.

A follow up on the Bloom Box

Thanks to Agent Eugene Robkin.



A choice quote regarding their "shadiness":

Probably what annoys me most about Bloom's press release is that they claim the box "provides a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable alternative to both today’s electric grid as well as traditional renewable energy sources." Again, if it's not an outright lie, it's at least very misleading. The Bloom Box might be more reliable than both, but it isn't cheaper than the grid and it isn't cleaner than solar or wind. Marketing double-speak isn't good for anyone. If you take that sentence at face value, then you might as well cease all development of solar and wind and put 100% of the country's resources into Bloom Boxes.

Bloom Energy's technology is fantastic and exciting. It's much cleaner than our current electricity infrastructure and more practical than distributed solar. It's great, but there's no reason to make false claims when your product is this revolutionary

While I'd have to agree that they overpromised and overhyped, it still doesn't take away from what the boxes could do. Even though they still emit CO2, they do at a far lesser rate than most any energy generation platform we have today. It basically makes connecting to the grid an option, not a necessity.

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Comment by Brian Ballsun-Stanton on March 18, 2010 at 2:31am
Has any new news dropped on these things since the big PR splurt? I'd like to see any kind of real evidence.
Comment by Nathaniel Fruchter on March 18, 2010 at 3:34am
Yeah they've actually got a data sheet out and they have corporate installations. However, I think the personal ones are still under development
Comment by Brian Ballsun-Stanton on March 18, 2010 at 6:41am
Yeah, the only thing that lends credence to the story are their corporate installs. Still, I take this stuff with a huuuge grain of salt.


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