By now, you have probably heard of the Bloom Box, the green fuel cell device that promises to soon power our homes. After appearing on CBS’ 60 Minutes last week, its sand-based fuel cells generated a ton of buzz and media attention.

Yesterday, Bloom Energy launched the Bloom Box in front of hundreds of investors, press, and well-known figures, including General Colin Powell (who sits on the board), California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Google Co-founder Larry Page.

What exactly is this energy-generating device, though? How does it work? And when can we expect it in our homes? While we don’t have all the answers to these questions, the press did have the chance to grill Bloom Energy CEO KR Sridhar, Ph.D., General Colin Powell, and others on just what this box is all about.

What Is the Bloom Box?

At the core, the Bloom Box (or the Bloom Energy Server) is an electricity-generating device that takes fuel and air and turns it into power. The buzz is building around the device because it works (several companies are already using them), it is a green technology (low emissions), and that it has the potential to power an entire home with a box that can fit in your hands.

The company behind it, Bloom Energy, hasn’t generated a lot of attention. That is, until it granted its first interview to 60 Minutes last Sunday. The 10 minute clip dives deep into exactly how the box works, the history behind the company (it was founded in 2002), and the potential applications of the device.

If you want to learn exactly what this box is about, check out the 60 Minutes video, embedded below:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

How Does the Bloom Box Create Electricity?

The first question most people ask is: How the heck does the Bloom Box work? While the company understandably isn’t going to reveal its trade secrets, it has provided some nice graphics and details on how the Bloom Box generates electricity.

The device is, in fact, a fuel cell, which means it generates electricity through a chemical reaction. In the case of the Bloom Box, fuel is mixed with oxygen and then a reaction is triggered through an electrolyte layer to create electricity. The actual fuel cells are primarily built with compressed sands. The fuel is interchangeable, although natural gas seems to the fuel of choice currently.

This graphic provides a quick overview of the different configurations of the Bloom Box, as well as the basics of how they work:

What the Bloom Box Looks Like

The Bloom Box is already in use at eight major corporations: Google, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Staples, eBay, Cox Enterprises, Walmart, and FedEx. All of these boxes are in California due to a hefty subsidy that helps these companies purchase green technologies on the cheap.

Yesterday, I was at eBay’s headquarters for the launch of Bloom Energy. During that time, I snuck off and took a short video of the five Bloom Boxes currently in use on eBay’s campus. They currently generate about 15% of the power at eBay’s headquarters.

Some interesting things I learned about the boxes by being up-close and personal with them: they are definitely not hot, and while they do make sound, it’s a lot less than what you’d find at a power plant or a transformer station.

Bloom Box Press Q&A

We had a lot of questions about the Bloom Box, and so did the rest of the press that attended the launch of the event. Thus, Bloom Energy had a 30 minute press Q&A to answer our questions, which included Bloom Energy’s CEO and its VP of Marketing, as well as T.J. Rodgers, Founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, John Doerr, Partner at investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers, and General Colin Powell.

We covered a lot of ground in the 30 minutes, all of which I recorded (apologies for the shaky camera — I lost my tripod!). We asked them about when we’ll see Bloom Boxes in our homes, whether they could be used to power our cars, dived into the technical details of the Bloom Energy Server, how much funding the company has raised (rumored: $400 million), and when Bloom Energy won’t need subsidies to survive.

Bonus: at 19 minutes and 25 seconds, I ask KR Sridhar about which fuels Bloom Energy’s current customers use and learned that the box automatically knows when its fuel input has been changed.

Colin Powell Speaks about Bloom Energy’s Military Applications

What Do You Think?

It’s your turn: we want to know what you think of the Bloom Box. From these videos, do you think the device is all hype or that the attention is justified? Would you want to buy one of these devices for your home if it were available, and how much would you pay?

Let us know your answers to these question, along with anything else that strikes you about Bloom Energy, in the comments.

Reviews: Google

Tags: bloom box, bloom energy, Colin Powell, ebay, energy