K. R. Sridhar
Sridhar was awarded a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology at Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India in 1982. He moved to the United States and gained a M.S. in nuclear engineering and a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.
Oxygen production on Mars
The Space Technologies Laboratory was asked by NASA to undertake research into how life could be made sustainable on Mars. The team built a device that could use solar power and water obtained from the planet to power a reactor cell that made oxygen to breathe and hydrogen to power vehicles. Sridhar led a project that built a Mars oxygen production cell using a yttria-stabilized zirconia solid-electrolyte ionic conductor to electrolyse carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen production unit was to fly as part of the MIP ("Mars ISPP Precursor") experiment package that was to be sent to Mars on the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander mission. This would have been the first demonstration of in-situ resource utilization ("ISRU") for propellant production on another planet. However, the 2001 Surveyor Lander mission was cancelled after the failure of the Mars Polar Lander, which used an identical spacecraft.
After NASA canceled the Mars-2001 Surveyor Lander mission, Sridhar started working on reversing the process, using oxygen and hydrogen to create power.
In 2001, Sridhar was a co-founder of Ion America, later to become Bloom Energy, with a mission to "make clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone on earth". Sridhar became the chief executive officer. In 2002, the company moved to the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.
On 24 February 2010, Bloom Energy launched a new energy-efficient and environmentally friendly fuel cell known as the Bloom Box. As of 2010[update], natural gas and atmospheric oxygen are pumped through a stack of cells, producing electricity, but theoretically any other gaseous fuel could be used. The energy is clean and inexpensive, but development and production of this fuel cell required a large initial investment of $100 million. Sridhar was able to obtain funding for the project from investors such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates. Kleiner is represented on the Bloom Energy board of directors by John Doerr, an early investor in companies such as Amazon and Google as well.
In a 2010 segment of 60 Minutes on CBS, Sridhar predicted that a $3000 box could be in every home within the next five to ten years. Companies such as Adobe Systems, Ebay, Google, FedEx, Wal-Mart and Yahoo have already leased larger-sized boxes.
- Rajghatta, Chidanand (23 February 2010). "NRI readies power plant in a box". The Times Of India.
- "Is K.R. Sridhar’s 'magic box' ready for prime time?". Fortune. February 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
- "KR Sridhar, Ph.D - Principal Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer".
- Schenker, Jennifer (December 7, 2009). "Bloom Energy Shifts Power via Fuel Cells". Business Week.
- Kaplan, David I.; Baird, R. Scott; Ratliff, James E.; Baraona, Cosmo R.; Jenkins, Phillip P.; Landis, Geoffrey A.; Scheiman, David A.; Brinza, David E.; Johnson, Kenneth R.; Karlmann, Paul B.; Sridhar, K. R.; and Gottmann, Matthias, "The 2001 MARS IN-SITU-PROPELLANT-PRODUCTION PRECURSOR (MIP) Flight Demonstration", Human Space Transportation and Exploration Workshop, 28 Feb. - 1 Mar. 2000, Galveston, TX
- Jha, Alok (24 February 2010). "Launch of the Bloom box fuel cell generates a slice of Apple hype". The Guardian (London).
- "Box of Clean Cheap Energy Blooms in Calif". CBS News. 24 February 2010.