Internet giant and increasingly active clean-tech player, Google, is offering a US$1 million prize for a proposal to shrink the “humble” solar inverter to the size of a laptop.
In conjunction with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Google is now inviting applications for its ‘Little Box’ challenge, which it claims could “revolutionise” the provision of electricity.
The challenge set by Google is to shrink the size of a kilowatt-size DC-AC inverter – “roughly the size of a picnic cooler” – to something with a volume of a small laptop computer, around one-tenth its current size.
A specification document published by Google and IEEE sets out detailed criteria the proposed inverter must meet. These include a conversion efficiency of at least 95% and the ability to maintain a temperature of no more than 60 degrees C so that all parts of the box are touchable. Overall, the inverter must not exceed more than 40 cubic inches.
In a blog post to launch the competition, Google said the challenge would present numerous engineering hurdles.
“But whoever gets it done will help change the future of electricity. A smaller inverter could help create low-cost micro-grids in remote parts of the world. Or allow you to keep the lights on during a blackout via your electric car’s battery. Or enable advances we haven’t even thought of yet,” the post said.
The first application deadline is 22 July 2015.