Bloom Energy's invention converts air and nearly any fuel source -- ranging from natural gas to a wide range of biogases -- into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, rather than dirty combustion. Even running on a fossil fuel, the systems are approximately 67% cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant, explains the company.
A fuel cell is like a battery that always runs. It consists of three parts: an electrolyte, an anode, and a cathode. For a solid-oxide fuel cell, the electrolyte is a solid ceramic material.
The anode and cathode are made from special "inks" that coat the electrolyte. Unlike other types of fuel cells, no precious metals, corrosive acids, or molten materials are required.
In a fuel cell, an electrochemical reaction converts fuel and air into electricity, without combustion.
A solid oxide fuel cell is a high-temperature fuel cell. At high temperatures, warmed air enters the cathode side of the fuel cell....
... and steam mixes with fuel to produce reformed fuel, which enters on the fuel cell's anode side.
As the reformed fuel crosses the anode, it attract oxygen ions up from the cathode (see here as light blue circles).
Those oxygen ions combine with the reformed fuel to produce electricity, water, and a small amount of carbon dioxide.
As long as there's fuel, air, and heat, the process can continue.
Silicon Valley startup Bloom Energy just unveiled its new, heavily hyped technology, which harnesses chemical reactions to create energy. Here's how it works