Think Shrink.

Think Shrink

Introducing the Little Box Challenge

An open competition to build a (much) smaller power inverter, with a $1,000,000 prize.

Design and build a kW-scale inverter with the highest power density (at least 50 Watts per cubic inch).

Know what that means? Have a healthy disregard for the perceived limits of engineering?
Then you’re exactly who we’re looking for.

Presented by Google & IEEE

Cooler-sized Isn’t Cool

Inverters are the essential boxes that take direct current from devices such as solar panels and batteries and turn it into alternating current for use in homes, businesses, and cars.

The problem is household inverters are too big—roughly the size of a picnic cooler. Making them smaller would enable more solar-powered homes, more efficient distributed electrical grids, and could help bring electricity to the most remote parts of the planet.

That’s where you come in: figure out how to shrink an inverter down to something smaller than a small laptop (a reduction of > 10× in volume) and smaller than everyone else, and you’ll win a million dollars (and help revolutionize electricity for the next century).




Learn more about inverters

If all of this can run on something this suitcase-sized, then why not something tablet sized?

Details

First, the competition dates:

September 2014

  • Applicants contemplating competing in the prize must register their team by the registration deadline: September 30, 2014.
  • Eligible academics interested in pursuing grant funding must apply by the grant application deadline: September 30, 2014 by visiting the University Relations site.

July 2015

  • Registered teams must submit a technical approach and testing application by July 22, 2015.

October 2015

  • Up to 18 finalists will be notified of their selection for final testing at the testing facility. They are required to bring their inverters in person to a testing facility in United States by October 21, 2015.

January 2016

  • The grand prize winner will be announced sometime in January, 2016.

Testing Facility: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Google and the IEEE Power Electronics Society have announced that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, USA will be the testing facility for the competition. Up to 18 finalist teams will be invited to bring their inverters for extended testing (up to approximately 100 hours) at NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) using state of the art equipment and supervised by world-class technical staff. The results will help us ensure that the best entry wins. When they come to Colorado, the finalists will also be invited to attend an event hosted by Google, the IEEE Power Electronics Society and NREL, where they will get a chance to discuss and present on their designs as well as get a tour of the facility.

Device Manufacturers

One promising set of new technologies which may allow for the achievement of higher power densities are wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, such as Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC). Below are a list of WBG device manufacturers who have made pages describing their technology, how it might enable contestants to win the competition and opportunities for obtaining some of their devices.

Are you a wide bandgap device manufacturer that thinks it should be listed above? Click here for an application to be listed (must be submitted by 9/30/2014 to be considered).

Grants

Are you an academic interested in trying to win The Little Box Challenge? Research at Google is also making a limited number of awards of available to academics in concert with the prize. Visit their website here.

FAQs

Got some questions? Here are some answers.

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