Feeds

Are you broke? Good with electronics? Build a better AC/DC box, get back in black with $1m

That current affairs pun was shocking but it has potential

Business security measures using SSL

There's a million dollars in prizes up for grabs from Google and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for the clever clogs who can build a direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) converter that's the size of a laptop.

The Little Box Challenge aims to solve one of the dilemmas in modern-day power supply – that many sources, such as solar panels, output DC, as do batteries, but that most appliances in homes and businesses expect AC*.

To convert DC to AC to power a building, a bulky inverter is needed. But Google is unhappy with the state of today's offerings, hence the contest to build a better inverter.

"We hope The Little Box Challenge may lead to improvements not only in power density, but also in reliability, efficiency, safety, and cost," Maggie Johnson, Google's director of education wrote in a blog post.

"Furthermore, it is our hope that some of these advances can also improve the other types of power electronics. If these devices can be made very small, reliable and inexpensive, we could see all kinds of useful applications to the electric grid, consumer devices and beyond, maybe including some we have yet to imagine."

Household inverters are bulky at present, about the size of a picnic cooler, we're told. Google wants the prize winners to shrink this gear by a factor of ten to about the size of a laptop – or even a tablet if possible. At the same time, the inverter has to be able to handle loads of 2kVA with a power density of 50W per cubic inch. It must take 450V DC in series with a 10-Ohm resistor, and output single-phase 240V AC at 60Hz.

The winning device will have to do all of this while staying below 60 degrees celsius (140°F) on any touchable surface, with no liquid cooling systems allowed, and with a conversion efficiency of more than 95 per cent.

Google suggested that the competitors may want to look into the use of wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors – such as gallium-nitride (GaN) and silicon-carbide (SiC) – for the project, but new approaches are always welcome. All intellectual property for the winning designs will remain with the inventors.

Initial applications must be submitted by the end of September, and by October next year the 18 finalists will be picked by a five-person judging panel and sent to a testing facility. The winning teams will be announced the following January and cash awards of up to a million dollars will be awarded. ®

* The irony of converting DC to AC and then, inevitably, back to DC again in a tablet or laptop adapter is not lost on us. But hey, a million bucks is a million bucks. And, anyway, something's got to power that smartfridge.

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch
For decades Hollywood actually binned its 4K files. Doh!
Oi, Tim Cook. Apple Watch. I DARE you to tell me, IN PERSON, that it's secure
State attorney demands Apple CEO bows the knee to him
Apple's big bang: iPhone 6, ANOTHER iPhone 6 Plus and WATCH OUT
Let's >sigh< see what Cupertino has been up to for the past year
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Get your Indian Landfill Android One handsets - they're only SIXTY QUID
Cheap and deafening mobes for the subcontinental masses
Apple's SNEAKY plan: COPY ANDROID. Hello iPhone 6, Watch
Sizes, prices and all – but not for the wrist-o-puter
A SCORCHIO fatboy SSD: Samsung SSD850 PRO 3D V-NAND
4Gb/s speeds on a consumer drive, anyone?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.