Google establishes $1-million prize for making solar power inverters a “little box”

Google, who not only rein over all things Internet but also dared to tackle aging (and, subsequently dying),  also pays closer attention to another eternal problem of humankind — renewable energy.

After the last year’s acquisition of a California-based solar-power development startup Recurrent Energy and building the largest solar energy array in California’s desert Mojave, Google is hunting for new talent in the electric engineering field and announcing a $1-million prize for teams and individuals who reinvent the inverter that is used to convert the direct current from solar panels into alternating current that we use at home. The goal of the competition called «Little Box Challenge»? To make a more efficient inverter that would allow solar panels to become a ubiquitous device for at-home electricity purposes.

Photo: Google's solar panels powering the company's servers in Mojave Desert, California,
Photo: Google’s solar panels powering the company’s servers in Mojave Desert, California. Image source: Reuters

Now inverters are big, heavy and bulky devices based on silicon switches, which are the most vulnerable and current-wasting components. That’s why Google encourages applicants for the prize to re-think the materials and circuit designs to make switches more durable, power-saving and heat-protected.

The entries are accepted until July 22, 2015. One million dollars, which is a fairly small amount for Google, is not the price for the winning entry. The winners will get this money and may file a patent on their own behalf — Google won’t insist on owning the invention.