Google Reveals 'Little Box Challenge' Rules for Contest's $1M Prize
The Challenge seeks designs for a smaller, better and more efficient solar power inverter, which is used to collect renewable energy to be used by consumers.Google has now laid out the rules for its $1 million "Little Box Challenge" competition, which was unveiled as a concept in May to encourage the development of smaller, more efficient solar power inverters that can store energy for later consumption. The complete rules and requirements for the contest were announced by Maggie Johnson, Google's director of education and university relations, in a July 22 post on the Google Research Blog. "Think shrink! Min it to win it! Smaller is baller! That's what the Little Box Challenge is all about: developing a high power density inverter," wrote Johnson. "It's a competition presented by Google and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power Electronics Society (IEEE PELS)—not only a grand engineering challenge, but your chance to make a big impact on the future of renewables and electricity." The prize for the winning entry is $1 million, which organizers hope will inspire incredible innovations from academic researchers to miniaturize today's bulky power inverters so that they can be used to harness solar power for when it is needed. The competition is only open to researchers and students at colleges and universities. "Some recent advances may change what's possible in power electronics," wrote Johnson. "For example, Wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors—such as gallium-nitride (GaN) and silicon-carbide (SiC)"—enable higher power storage densities than conventional silicon-based devices do, but they can "run into limits on the power density of inverters."
At the same time, inverters may have the most potential for solving solar energy storage problems today, wrote Johnson. "And because inverters are so common in household applications, we hope The Little Box Challenge may lead to improvements not only in power density, but also in reliability, efficiency, safety, and cost."