Energy Idea for Mars Yields a Clue for Powering Data Centers

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Energy Idea for Mars Yields a Clue for Powering Data Centers
And with a recent deal for Dr. Sridhar’s company, Bloom Energy, to install generators at a dozen data centers in California
and New Jersey for Equinix, a leading operator, it is poised for a major expansion.
Scott Samuelsen, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, said data centers could become an important market for fuel cells
because the industry “appears to want to be more environmentally sensitive but more reliant on their own resources.”
Part of the environmental appeal lies in their efficiency.
Equinix tested the Bloom cells at a data center in San Jose for 18 months before committing to the
current arrangement, in which it will buy the energy under a 15-year power purchase agreement.
“It’s not like a jet engine.”
The innovations at Bloom stem from Dr. Sridhar’s work on NASA’s Mars exploration program
when he was director of the Space Technologies Laboratory at the University of Arizona.
At that temperature, when natural gas mixed with steam flows over one surface of the cell while oxygen flows over the other, a reaction results in the release of electricity, steam
that is recycled through the process and carbon dioxide.
The aim of the deal, financed by a subsidiary of a deep-pocketed electric utility, Southern Company, is not only to create a reliable energy source for a power-thirsty industry,
but also to help validate a technology that has struggled to gain mainstream acceptance.

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