As epidemiologists focus on COVID-19 solutions in the petri dish, an unlikely source of help for patients has come from a company with roots in technology developed for outer space, NASA and life on Mars. Bloom Energy of San Jose, Calif., sprang from work by founder KR Sridhar that led to the creation of fuel cells capable of producing air and fuel from electricity generated by a solar panel. In 2001, the company shifted to developing clean, reliable energy, and its servers, among the earliest in the clean tech industry, were installed by Google in 2008. As the pandemic spread in spring, more hospital equipment was needed to help patients breathe. After Los Angeles received 170 broken ventilators from a national stockpile and state officials discovered the state’s stockpiles and stores had lain unexamined or were expired, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Sridhar for help.
Sridhar’s engineers fixed and refurbished 24 of the devices within 24 hours. The continuing work is being done in concert with Almo Corporation—which is using its national logistics network to ship ventilators to and from Bloom’s facilities in California and Delaware—and Stanford Health Care, the biomedical engineers of which are testing the renovated ventilators. “One plus one plus one is greater than three,” says Sridhar. “Community isn’t defined just by physical proximity; it’s coming together in a time of need to act in the interest of the greater good. That’s what this partnership represents, and we certainly welcome others to join.”