Google, IEEE launch $1m 'Little Box' power inverter challenge

Google is offering $1 million for you to come up with a compact solution for transforming renewable energy sources into something usable at home.

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Google is offering $1 million for you to come up with a solution to transform a power inverter into something suitable for home use.

The tech giant announced the Little Box challenge in May. Google challenged innovators and engineers to take a power inverter, a device used to convert renewable energy including solar and wind before transforming it into suitable current for the home and vehicles, and shrink it. Entrants into the contest are asked to take a power inverter and map out a solution to make these large devices into the size of a small laptop, roughly a tenth of its current size.

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In other words, Google wants someone to build a kW-scale inverter with a power density greater than 50W per cubic inch. In return, the tech giant and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Power Electronics Society will give you $1 million as a reward.

The Little Box challenge is now open for submissions, and Google says whoever rises to the challenge will "help change the future of electricity," as small inverters could be used to create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world. Not only this, but smaller household inverters could promote more solar power use in the home and more efficient electrical grids and energy use.

IEEE PELS President Don Tan commented:

We are very pleased to present this important initiative together with Google to encourage innovation. By participating in this challenge, members of industry and academia can play a pivotal role in a technological innovation that could have a major impact on the world.

To compete, register on the website. The contest calendar is below.

  • 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 Registered teams must submit a technical approach and testing application by July 22, 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.
  • The grand prize winner will be announced sometime in January, 2016.