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

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Apple spent just ONE DOLLAR beefing up the latest iPad Air 2
New iPads look a lot like the old one. There's a reason for that
Pixel mania: Apple 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display
Cupertino computer in value for money shocker
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Microsoft fitness bands slapped on wrists: All YOUR HEALTH DATA are BELONG TO US
Wearable will deliver 'actionable insights for healthier living'
Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring
Back to driving's basics with a joyously legal high
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.