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Google, IEEE Offer $1 Million For a Better Inverter

23 July 2014

Google is getting together with the IEEE to offer a prize of $1 million for the individual or team that can shrink the size of a 2kVA power dc-to-ac inverter the most under the banner of The Little Box Challenge.

As the browser company and IT giant states: "Figure out how to shrink an inverter down to something smaller than a small laptop – a reduction of more than a factor of ten in volume – and smaller than everyone else, and you'll win a million dollars – and help revolutionize electricity for the next century.

Google has flagged up the use of wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) as a likely approach and got power semiconductor manufacturers including: Cree, Efficient Power Conversion, GaN Systems, Monolith Semiconductors, NXP, Rohm, Transphorm and United Silicon Carbide to support the project.

For academics interested in trying to win The Little Box Challenge Google is making a limited number of financial awards to academics. "We expect to award 10 to 15 projects in amounts between US$20,000 and US$40,000," Google said.

However, winning the prize will not be easy. Besides handling loads of up to 2kVA the winning air-cooled solution must achieve a power density of 50W per cubic inch, occupy no more than 40 cubic inches and output 240V ac from 450V dc input. The dc-to-ac inverter is expected to be at least 95 percent efficient.

And lest any thought this was a ploy by Google to gain control of IP and copyright the IT company states that it does not require entrants to provide IP or licenses except in the form of a non-exclusive license to be used only for the purpose of testing the inverter and publicizing the price.

The deadline for registration is September 30, 2014. Registered participants must tender a technical approach document by July 22, 2015 and 18 teams are expected to participate in a physical testing at a laboratory in the United States on October 15. 2015. The winner, if winner there is will be announced in January 2016.

Related links and articles:

The Little Box Challenge.

News articles:

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Industrial Chip Market to Grow 11% in 2014

Transphorm to Take Over Fujitsu GaN Power Business

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