David Kirkpatrick

August 3, 2010

Platinum nanoparticles may radically improve fuel cells

This nanotech-based catalyst would put electric cars — among other ideas and products — on a much faster track.

From the link:

In the quest for efficient, cost-effective and commercially viable fuel cells, scientists at Cornell University’s Energy Materials Center have discovered a catalyst and catalyst-support combination that could make fuel cells more stable, conk-out free, inexpensive and more resistant to carbon monoxide poisoning.

The research, “Highly Stable and CO-Tolerant Pt/Ti0.7W0.3O2 Electrocatalyst for Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells,” (, July 12, 2010) led by Hector D. Abruna, Cornell professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and director of the Energy Materials Center at Cornell (emc2); Francis J. DiSalvo, Cornell professor Chemistry and Chemical Biology; Deli Wang, post doctoral researcher; Chinmayee V. Subban, graduate student; Hongsen Wang, research associate; and Eric Rus, graduate student.

offer an appealing alternative to gasoline-burning cars: They have the potential to power vehicles for long distances using hydrogen as fuel, mitigate carbon dioxide production and emit only water vapor.

However, fuel cells generally require very pure hydrogen to work. That means that conventional fuels must be stripped of  – a process that is too expensive to make fuel cells commercially viable.

Fuel cells work by electrochemically decomposing fuel instead of burning it, converting energy directly into electricity

February 24, 2010

Is the Bloom Box the next Segway?

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:51 pm

That is, overhyped as a revolutionary game-changing technology that doesn’t even come close to expectations? Who knows. K.R. Sridhar is getting plenty of attention and if the Bloom Box comes near to delivering on its promise may well become a truly revolutionary piece of technology. The skeptic in me keeps me from holding my breath in excitement. (And yes, that last sentence is dripping with snark even though it doesn’t come through in the writing.)

From the link:

The hot energy news for this week comes in the form of a small box called the Bloom box, whose inventor hopes that it will be in almost every US home in the next five to 10 years. K.R. Sridhar, founder of the Silicon Valley start-up called Bloom Energy, unveiled the device on “60 Minutes” to CBS reporter Leslie Stahl on Sunday evening. Although Sridhar made some impressive claims on the show, he left many of the details a secret. This Wednesday, the company will hold a “special event” in eBay’s town hall, with a countdown clock on its website suggesting it will be a momentous occasion – or at least generating hype.

As Sridhar explained to Stahl, the Bloom box is a new kind of fuel cell that produces electricity by combining oxygen in the air with any , such as natural gas, bio-gas, and solar energy. Sridhar said the chemical reaction is efficient and clean, creating energy without burning or combustion. He said that two Bloom boxes – each the size of a grapefruit – could wirelessly power a US home, fully replacing the ; one box could power a European home, and two or three Asian homes could share a single box. Although currently a commercial unit costs $700,000-$800,000 each, Sridhar hopes to manufacture home units that cost less than $3,000 in five to 10 years. He said he got the idea after designing a device for NASA that would generate oxygen on Mars, for a mission that was later canceled. The Bloom box works in the opposite way as the Mars box: instead of generating oxygen, it uses oxygen as one of the inputs.

Update — Here’s the latest on the Bloom box from PhysOrg.