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Jul 29th, 2014
 
Google's $1m challenge to shrink inverters
 
Hint to competitors: use wide band gap semiconductors such as GaN and SiC.
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Google and the IEEE have announced an open competition ‘The Little Box Challenge' to build a smaller power inverter, with a $1m prize. The winning device will be the one that achieves the highest power density (plus a list of other specifications) while undergoing testing for 100 hours.

Google and IEEE are pointing to wide bandgap semiconductors such as Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) as the technologies most likely to achieve the power densities required. Wide bandgap suppliers Cree, EPC, GaN systems, Monolith Semiconductor, NXP, Rohm, Transphorm, and USCi are supporting the competition and have made web pages describing their technology, how it might enable contestants to win the competition, and opportunities for obtaining some of their devices.

Applicants contemplating competing in the prize must register their team by the September 30, 2014, on the website https://www.littleboxchallenge.com/

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. But household inverters are big - roughly the size of a picnic cooler. Shrinking them down to something smaller than a small laptop, says Google, would enable more solar-powered homes, more efficient distributed electrical grids, and could help bring electricity to the most remote parts of the planet.


 
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