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Bloom Box: What is it and how does it work?

A '60 Minutes' Bloom Box segment has many excited about the home power plant. Is it too good to be true?

The Bloom Box by Bloom Energy was featured on 60 Minutes Sunday night. How does it work?

60 Minutes screengrab/CBS

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It’s being hailed as the Holy Grail of clean energy: a refrigerator-sized personal power plant that produces energy cheaply and cleanly and may one day replace the traditional power grid. Its inventor wants to put one in every home by 2020.

Bloom Box is the creation of Bloom Energy, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that is promising to revolutionize energy with its “power plant in a box.” K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom Energy, gave Americans their first peek at the new device Sunday on CBS’s 60 Minutes. On Wednesday, Mr. Sridhar will make a major public announcement in Silicon Valley unveiling Bloom Box.

So what is Bloom Box?

It’s a collection of fuel cells – skinny batteries – that use oxygen and fuel to create electricity with no emissions.

Fuel cells are the building blocks of the Bloom Box. They’re made of sand that is baked into diskette-sized ceramic squares and painted with green and black ink. Each fuel cell has the potential to power one light bulb. The fuel cells are stacked into brick-sized towers sandwiched with metal alloy plates.

The fuel cell stacks are housed in a refrigerator-sized unit – the Bloom Box. Oxygen is drawn into one side of the unit, and fuel (fossil-fuel, bio-fuel, or even solar power can be used) is fed into the other side. The two combine within the cell and produce a chemical reaction that creates energy with no burning, no combustion, and no power lines.

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