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Google Offers a Million Bucks For a Better Inverter

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the go-small-or-go-home dept.

Power 260

An anonymous reader writes: With the Little Box Challenge, Google (and IEEE, and a few other sponsors like Cree and Rohm) is offering a $1 million prize to the team which can "design and build a kW-scale power inverter with the highest power density (at least 50 Watts per cubic inch)." Going from cooler-sized to tablet sized, they say, would make a whole lot of things better, and the prize is reserved for the best performing entrant. "Our testing philosophy is to not look inside the box. You provide us with a box that has 5 wires coming out of it: two DC inputs, two AC outputs and grounding connection and we only monitor what goes into and comes out of those wires, along with the temperature of the outside of your box, over the course of 100 hours of testing. The inverter will be operating in an islanded more—that is, not tied or synced to an external grid. The loads will be dynamically changing throughout the course of the testing, similar to what you may expect to see in a residential setting." The application must be filled out in English, but any serious applicants can sign up "regardless of approach suggested or team background." Registration runs through September.

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110 or 240v (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510871)

is it for generating 110v or 240v like the developed world ?

Re:110 or 240v (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510929)

Must be able to handle up to 2 kVA loads
Must achieve a power density of equal to or greater than 50 W/in3
Must be able to handle loads with power factors from 0.7–1, leading and lagging in an islanded mode
Must be in a rectangular metal enclosure of no more than 40 in3
Will be taking in 450 V DC power in series with a 10 resistor
Must output 240 V, 60 Hz AC single phase power
Must have a total harmonic distortion + noise on both voltage and current of 5%
Must have an input ripple current of 20%
Must have an input ripple voltage of 3%
Must have a DC-AC efficiency of greater than 95%
Must maintain a temperature of no more than 60C during operation everywhere on the outside of the device that can be touched.
Must conform to Electromagnetic Compliance standards as set out in FCC Part 15 B
Can not use any external source of cooling (e.g. water) other than air
Does not require galvanic isolation

Re:110 or 240v (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510977)

I have a great inverter design I just need to add 5% of harmonic distortion and noise on both voltage and current.

Re:110 or 240v (1)

Anaerin (905998) | about 4 months ago | (#47511021)

Why on earth would they call for 240V 60Hz? (almost) Nobody uses that. It's either 110V 60Hz (North America and colonies) or 240V 50Hz (UK, Europe and similar). And inverting to single phase is a lot harder than to 3-phase (and a lot less efficient).

Re:110 or 240v (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47511043)

The US does run 220(ish)V 60Hz for heavy loads. Really big appliances and light industrial.

Re:110 or 240v (3, Insightful)

Anaerin (905998) | about 4 months ago | (#47511079)

Yes, because the US cheats and uses 220 split-phase to provide 110 power. Most everywhere else that needs high power uses 3-phase, as it's smoother, easier to produce and rectify, and just as safe to transmit.

Re:110 or 240v (5, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 4 months ago | (#47511245)

Except it requires more wires. 220/240V split phase requires 3 wires.

3-phase generally requires 4.

And unless you really need 3-phase, split phase is easier to deal with - with 3-phase you need to monitor all three phases to ensure they are working (failure of one phase is a common failure mode that requires immediate shutdown of the other two phases lest any dangerous currents develop).

Though, one thing I don't get about this challenge - they're using they want 2kVA output, but then demanding 50W/in^3 with a max size of 40in^3, meaning you have to provide 2000W.

And 2000W can mean providing way more than 2000VA. (The reason we use VA for inverters instead of watts is VA captures virtual power. 2000VA requires just as much power handling components (transformers, transistors, etc) as supplying 2000W at a 1.0PF (i.e., all resistive). Even if you have a really bad power factor and your real power draw is only 1000W - the hardware has to be able to instanteously supply the current and voltage for 2000W at periods in the cycle. The virtual power is virtual, because it's "given back" during another part of the cycle, but that means all the equipment has to handle it.

A lot of electric companies will have a power factor surcharge because of it - if your power factor can't be corrected to within limits, they charge more because they have to install bigger equipment.

The only real saving grace is that the input voltage is 450VDC, so you're really just doing a buck converter.

Re:110 or 240v (1)

Anaerin (905998) | about 4 months ago | (#47511331)

3 Phase doesn't require the return neutral, unless your load is very unbalanced. So they both require 3 wires to transmit.

And yes, it does appear to be a simple buck converter. Though you could probably use a Z-Source inverter too.

Re:110 or 240v (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47511619)

3 phase requires the return by code. Technically however, you are correct. That's just for safety and I often question if it makes any sense myself.

Re:110 or 240v (1)

cheese_boy (118027) | about 4 months ago | (#47511789)

Though, one thing I don't get about this challenge - they're using they want 2kVA output, but then demanding 50W/in^3 with a max size of 40in^3, meaning you have to provide 2000W.

What is it you don't get?
Requirements are >=50W/in^3 and &lt= 40in^3.
I would expect some of the entrants will exceed those requirements - doing more W/in^3 and/or less space.

Re:110 or 240v (3, Interesting)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 4 months ago | (#47511841)

Heh, once, in a pinch, I have made due with a "special" extension cord - with two 3 prong 110 heads spliced onto a 220 socket... All I had to do was find two outlets on different phases and I was in business ;-)

Don't worry, I cut it up when I was done.

Re:110 or 240v (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47511609)

Yes, because the US cheats and uses 220 split-phase to provide 110 power. Most everywhere else that needs high power uses 3-phase, as it's smoother, easier to produce and rectify, and just as safe to transmit.

3 phase makes electric motors more efficient, and that's it. Technically, you could have as many phases as you could imagine having... each making the motor a tad more efficient. But they are not "smoother" and don't improve transmission.

'Phase' is often considered by some to be some magic property of electricity that somehow makes it better... it's not at all. It's a purely mechanical feature that's revolves around generators and motors. 2 phase means there are 2 electro magnets on the motor. 1 to the north, 1 to the south. When the North magnet is near and electro magnet that magnet goes to +120v and by contrast the south is at -120v. When you have 3 phase it increases efficiency by having an extra electro magnet. So now north is at +120v, but there are now 2 electro magnets to the south that are both 1/3rd of the way from that south pole and therefor at -60v each... It's a purely mechanical distinction and has no affect on anything other than the mechanical operation of motors.

Oh yea, and you can get 3 phase in the US. I got it, and most welding/milling shops have it as well.

Re: 110 or 240v (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511649)

Yeah, but if you add all three phases at any point in time, you get 1, which means constant torque. Isn't that the case?

Re:110 or 240v (1)

Anaerin (905998) | about 4 months ago | (#47511681)

Yes, because the US cheats and uses 220 split-phase to provide 110 power. Most everywhere else that needs high power uses 3-phase, as it's smoother, easier to produce and rectify, and just as safe to transmit.

3 phase makes electric motors more efficient, and that's it. Technically, you could have as many phases as you could imagine having... each making the motor a tad more efficient. But they are not "smoother" and don't improve transmission.

3-Phase AC produces a smoother (considerably less ripple) DC current pattern when rectified than single or split-phase AC.

Re:110 or 240v (2)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47511675)

Actually, we generate 3 phase just like everyone else. We just don't run all three to each house. Industrial and commercial users do commonly get 3 phase.

it's 240V in USA/Canada (4, Informative)

Chirs (87576) | about 4 months ago | (#47511133)

In the USA/Canada typical residential setups use two conductors at 120V to ground, but the conductors are out-of-phase so there is 240V between them.

There really isn't any such thing as 110V or 230V in the USA/Canada, both of which you'll sometimes see referenced. 208V does exist, it's the difference between two legs of a 3-phase setup where each leg is at 120V to ground.

240V is fairly common (2)

Chirs (87576) | about 4 months ago | (#47511261)

240V would be used for kitchen stove/range, clothes drier, electrical heat (air and water). Some commercial cappucino machines use 240V.

A home shop could very well use 240V for a welder and any number of power tools...lathe, jointer, planer, tablesaw, mortiser, wide belt sander, dust collector, shaper, etc.

Re:110 or 240v (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47511647)

220v is mostly in single or duplex residential settings. Otherwise, it's often 208v (convieniantly available by connecting to two phases of 3 phase power).

Re:110 or 240v (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 months ago | (#47511313)

Why on earth would they call for 240V 60Hz? (almost) Nobody uses that.

Whoah, google spent $7,300,000,000 on data centers last year [datacenterknowledge.com] and doesn't even know what voltage they run on? Time to sell my stock!

Google built its business by developing its own infrastructure, starting with custom servers in pizza boxes and lego. What crazy company runs out and develops its own filesystem for its own internal use? Google did [wikipedia.org] .

Re:110 or 240v (3, Informative)

jcochran (309950) | about 4 months ago | (#47511517)

The 240V 60Hz is so that it can handle both North American and UK voltage levels. If you look at the technical specifications document, you'll see that there are 2 different grounding configurations that the contestants may specify. In both configurations the inverter output is fed into an isolation transformer. One specification has the input of the isolation transformer center tapped and grounded which makes the AC outputs from the inverter swing +/- 120V from ground like you would expect in the USA. The other configuration doesn't have a center tapped transformer, but one leg of the input is grounded making one of the AC outputs swing +/- 240 V in referenced to ground and the other output is tied to ground. I suspect the 60Hz specification is due to the way transformers work. A transformer designed to operate at 50Hz using minimal materials will operate fine at 60Hz. However a transformer designed to operate at 60Hz using minimal materials will saturate magnetically at 50Hz causing it to overheat and eventually fail.

I dunno (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510875)

I just use a good old 74LS06, doesn't need a kilowatt.

Re:I dunno (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 4 months ago | (#47511011)

That'd be a logic inverter, while they specifially say power inverter.

"to not look inside the box" (1, Interesting)

fche (36607) | about 4 months ago | (#47510883)

An awesome way to smuggle a wifi sniffer - or something naughtier - into the googleplex!

Re: "to not look inside the box" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510901)

Like a bomb.

Re: "to not look inside the box" (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#47511277)

a very small bomb.
at 50W/in2 a 2kW inverter is only 40in3. Thats a cube Less than 3.5in. About the volume of 2 cans of coke.

Re: "to not look inside the box" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511767)

I read that as 40" per side...

Re:"to not look inside the box" (3, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 4 months ago | (#47511031)

An awesome way to smuggle a wifi sniffer - or something naughtier - into the googleplex!

...more like an awesome way for Google to grab a profitable patent in exchange for the prize money.

Seriously - if you can pop those kind of specifications, you can make a hell of a lot more than a million bucks from the patent alone.

Re:"to not look inside the box" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511091)

Unless you already have a couple of millions to defend the patent with the large companies are just going to roll you in court and then use it for free.
Even if you have the money to defend it you can't capitalize on it yourself because your invention infringes on a couple of hundred of their patents.

Re:"to not look inside the box" (3, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#47511283)

If you've got a patent for it, you just let everyone use it for 15 years then sue them all for billions in damages.

Isn't that how patents work?

Re:"to not look inside the box" (3, Informative)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 4 months ago | (#47511269)

more like an awesome way for Google to grab a profitable patent in exchange for the prize money.

Except they are not claiming any of the IP, just a 100 hr license to use it for the test. Also, why they claim they will not open the box up.

Re:"to not look inside the box" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511179)

Piffle. The worst they could find in that little box is... something already patented.

I've heard this one... (5, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about 4 months ago | (#47510893)

...happened many years ago. The government speced a power supply so clean that it couldn't economically be done at the time. The company that won the contract produced a box that met all the specs. Except that it failed after several hours of use. Opening the box, they found the power cable connected to a strain relief and the main power provided by a lead-acid battery.

Word is, there was no spec for lifecycle so the devices met the contract as stated, and the government couldn't return the devices.

So I'd recommend to Google: At some point, look in the box.

Re: I've heard this one... (2)

YodaDaCoda (1927704) | about 4 months ago | (#47510943)

That would be a rectifier. Google wants an inverter.

Re: I've heard this one... (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47511107)

Just reverse the wires.

Re: I've heard this one... (2)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 4 months ago | (#47511159)

....120 times per second.

Re: I've heard this one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511137)

Illustrating the point of why it's important to look in the box, the ex. itself is arbitrary, stop being pedantic

Re:I've heard this one... (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47510947)

Based on a weak urban myth?
Besides, if you get a battery that can do this work and meet these conditions, you would have invented a new type of battery. One that would make you billions.

Re:I've heard this one... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510973)

At 50 W per cubic inch, you'd make more money by just selling those batteries if they last longer than a few hours...

Re:I've heard this one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511157)

A few years ago the EPA's EnergyStar program certified [nytimes.com] a gasoline powered alarm clock submitted by GAO auditors.

Re: I've heard this one... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511199)

Now you know why government contracts have to be so complicated.

To fight dickery.

Re:I've heard this one... (4, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#47511355)

It needs to last for 100 hours of testing.
It must be smaller than 50W/in3

That's 305000W.h per litre. 1100MJ/Litre.

If you've got a battery with that kind of power density, $1M is chump change. You've solved the electric car problem, since you've got well over 1000x the power density of current lithium batteries.

Re:I've heard this one... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511717)

since you've got well over 1000x the power density of current lithium batteries.

Energy density. And nearly 100x that of gasoline, too.

Re:I've heard this one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511793)

Ok, how about a tiny generator somewhere---with enough fuel to last 100 hours, and enough power to improve outside efficiency to the required spec.

Imagine: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510895)

Team delivers a highly efficient product that surpasses all expectations. When it's time to pay, Google says "we were kidding.. you must not get American humor".

Why? (3, Interesting)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 4 months ago | (#47510931)

One question: why?

If you're running devices that need a kW you're already at a reasonable size for your device, and you can build a lot of cheap, larger inverters for what it would cost to build this small one.

You could also probably build the powered devices to run off 12V for less than what this inverter would cost.

Is what is keeping AC power from the hinterlands this is intended to serve really the size of the inverter, or is it more likely the cost?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510995)

Smaller IS cheaper.

Re:Why? (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#47511003)

You could also probably build the powered devices to run off 12V for less than what this inverter would cost.

Lower voltage, higher amperage required for same power, rapidly increasing power loss with increasing wire length, even at residential scale. There's a reason that your power supply for your 12V lights goes close to the lights and you don't run 12V through your house.

Re:Why? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47511069)

It could work if you're only going from bottom of rack UPS to rack equipment. It's already done in some datacenters, though usually at 24 or 48V rather than 12V.

Re:Why? (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#47511301)

It could work if you're only going from bottom of rack UPS to rack equipment. It's already done in some datacenters, though usually at 24 or 48V rather than 12V.

Oh, absolutely yes in data centers. But not in houses.

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#47511469)

and this is the reason it is 48V.
Copper is expensive. You don't want your 42U rack, which pulls 8kW powering it's 42 1U servers, drawing upwards of 700A.

For a 1% power loss over 1 metre at 700A, you need 0000AWG cable. It's about 1kg of copper (that's a single conductor, you'd need one for the return path, another kg and another 1% power loss)
But 0000AWG can't actually handle that amount of current without active cooling. for 90C rating, it's only 260A.

700A for 1M distance has cost you 160W of power and 2kg of copper and you need some fancy cable cooling technology.

If you upped the voltage to 48V, you only need 175A.
You'll be fine with 2AWG cable if you can keep it cool and only lose 30W. You could use 0AWG, which would cost you 1kg of copper and only have 19W of wasted power.

Re:Why? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#47511633)

For a 1% power loss over 1 metre at 700A, you need 0000AWG cable. It's about 1kg of copper (that's a single conductor, you'd need one for the return path, another kg and another 1% power loss)

Bah, just use the chassis as return; the frames might only be steel, but there's a good amount of it. That and I suggest 600V for truly limiting the amount of power lost through cables. ;)

Re:Why? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about 4 months ago | (#47511017)

The wiki page they link to has a photo of a converter that converts solar DC to electric grid AC. I'm not sure if they're looking to do residential solar with the inverter on the back side of the panel group or use this in a datacenter...

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511033)

Google can use economies of scale and their deep industrial design bench to make it cheap to manufacture. But it can only be as cheap as it is efficient in terms of lifetime cost.

So they solicit some designs, pick the best ones, and then figure out which one is the most cost effective given what Google can bring to the table.

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511065)

There is a good reason for the why. Several actually.

1. Small size and small heat output mean efficiency.
2. KW efficiency will likely translate directly to small scale device efficiency.
3. If its small enough, new ways of moving power could be theoretically created.

This reminds me of the packaging wars of yore. "why would you want the packaging to be lighter and smaller and cheaper?"

On the other hand, I can see some team making one of these and then at the end of the day saying "Thanks for the $1million guys!"
    "how did you do it?"
"Well, you see, its graphene wrapped around diamonds. LOL"

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511149)

> One question: why?

Why does Google care about inverters?


We believe that inverters will become increasingly important to our economy and environment as solar PV, batteries, and similar power sources continue their rapid growth. More broadly, similar forms of power electronics are everywhere: in laptops, phones, motors drives, electric vehicles, wind turbines, to give just a few examples. We expect that the innovations inspired by this prize will have wide applicability across these areas, increasing efficiency, driving down costs, and opening up new uses cases that we can’t imagine today. It also doesn’t hurt that many of these improvements could make our data centers run more safely and efficiently.

The Little Box Challenge [littleboxchallenge.com]

Feed Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510933)

Everything that can be invented has been invented!

Re:Feed Me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510981)

Everything that can be inverted has been inverted!

Re:Feed Me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47510987)

Nom Nom Nom. Troll is fed. Troll is happy. Troll thanks you for the lulz.

so... (3, Insightful)

serbanp (139486) | about 4 months ago | (#47510993)

what is the state of the art w.r.t. the 12VDC->110VAC/60Hz 1kW inverters?

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511323)

This: https://www.cobra.com/products/professional/cpi-2575 or something similar, but their talking about running household appliances off the thing. That's more like this: http://www.invertersrus.com/aims-picoglf12kw48v240vs.html

Looks like once you start crossing the 2500-3000 watt range things get bigger, faster as far as unit size per kW goes. My guess is that's the market they're targeting with this competition; home solar, wind energy, etc.

Re:so... (0)

caseih (160668) | about 4 months ago | (#47511493)

I've had good luck with the Honda suitcase inverters. They aren't particularly clean emissions-wise, but they are quiet, fuel-efficient, and produce the cleanest power of any inverter I've tried.

Solar power? (1)

crow (16139) | about 4 months ago | (#47511019)

An inverter converts DC power to AC power. The most obvious use is for solar power. For rooftop solar arrays, you want efficiency, but you don't care much about density. In many cases, you have a small inverter under each panel, and size isn't an issue. But if you could get a few percent more AC out for a given DC in, that would matter.

On the other hand, if you want a solar-powered Chromebook, the inverter could be a deal-breaker on the weight. I'm guessing it's applications like that that have inspired this challenge. They want a Chromebook that you leave out in the sun to recharge. Or something similar.

Or maybe they have some other crazy idea I haven't thought of yet.

Re:Solar power? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47511073)

Low-power inverters used to be common in laptops to drive the backlight. You still see them sometimes, but most new laptops use LED backlights now. No need for inverters on those. That's a good part of the appeal.

Re:Solar power? (2)

freeze128 (544774) | about 4 months ago | (#47511231)

A chromebook would run off of DC power, so the inclusion of an inverter would be a waste of technology. Why take the DC from solar cells and invert it to line-voltage AC just to rectify it again to the 12Volts and lower that a chromebook would use?

Re:Solar power? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 4 months ago | (#47511235)

"if you want a solar-powered Chromebook"

I'm a little confused... why would you convert dc to ac, only to convert it back to dc for the computer to use? If it's a dedicated power source for one device, wouldn't it make more sense to keep it dc?

$1M? (1)

hchaos (683337) | about 4 months ago | (#47511029)

If you can pull this off, I'd guess it would be worth a lot more than $1M.

Re:$1M? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511215)

Does Google own the intellectual property created during the competition?

No. Google is not requiring any IP or licenses be granted except a non-exclusive license to be used only for the purpose of testing the inverter and publicizing the prize. We want entrants to benefit themselves through the advancements they make in order to help grow an advanced power electronics ecosystem.

However, in the spirit of advancing this power electronics community, Google may choose to make public some or all of the teams’ high-level technical approach documents. These documents outline the key innovations used to overcome the problems which currently limit high power density in inverters. They do not need to reveal any IP. We only want to show the world what techniques are possible in creating a new generation of power electronics. More details on the requirements for this document can be found in the full terms and conditions and detailed inverter specifications for the prize.

https://www.littleboxchallenge.com/#faqs

Re:$1M? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 4 months ago | (#47511255)

Developing a working prototype and developing a commercially-feasible product are two different things. You could conceivably meet the requirements of this, but by using components or techniques that are not commercially feasible due to cost, safety, or other issues. However, it would be a big step in the direction towards doing such a thing. Google is paying for you to help make that step... not necessarily to develop a device that's worth commercializing.

And here I was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511051)

planning to move as much as possible to 12V, so as to do away with converting up, then down again.

Re:And here I was (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 4 months ago | (#47511299)

...but at 12V, resistance is decidedly non-futile. I presume your much as possible is in a single room, or you're going to be radiating a lot of your energy before it ever reaches your 12VDC devices. Unless you're dealing with high amperages, of course. Then the runoff, while still noticeable, will at least be a small fraction of the total.

Re:And here I was (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#47511405)

Wiring costs can add up as well. At low voltages the amount of copper or aluminum you have to throw at the problem to get resistive losses down can be pretty significant.

Re:And here I was (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#47511607)

So you'd rather lose power in wires instead?

Forgot electrical safety (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511075)

Just like they forget security

fairly sure you won't meet anyone's safety requirements for clearance and creepage with 'tablet like' spacing..

If I could make such a device, why give to Google? (-1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 4 months ago | (#47511077)

A million dollars would be chump change.

Re:If I could make such a device, why give to Goog (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511155)

because you are a selfless person and to make the world a better place?

Re:If I could make such a device, why give to Goog (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511295)

If that is the case, stay as far as you can away from Google (and Apple, Samsung and Microsoft).

Re:If I could make such a device, why give to Goog (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511169)

Exactly. Only an idiot would give away such a thing for only $1 million. Sounds like it would be something that could be patented and the technology licensed for quite a lot of money.

Re:If I could make such a device, why give to Goog (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511275)

Only an idiot would comment without reading the article.

Then again, I didn't actually read the article either. I read the comment slightly above yours that showed that the submissions are not given to Google; the inventor retains the IP rights. But it sure makes it easy to troll!

Re:If I could make such a device, why give to Goog (0)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 4 months ago | (#47511353)

Apparently on RTF, it says that the inventor retains IP rights.

IN that case.. never mind. :)

EDITOR: Read this (0)

freeze128 (544774) | about 4 months ago | (#47511209)

It's "Islanded-mode", not "islanded-more".

I know this is /. but RTFA (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47511257)

Stupid objection the first: "This is worth a lot more than a million dollars."
Response:

Does Google own the intellectual property created during the competition?

No. Google is not requiring any IP or licenses be granted except a non-exclusive license to be used only for the purpose of testing the inverter and publicizing the prize. [...] However, in the spirit of advancing this power electronics community, Google may choose to make public some or all of the teamsâ(TM) high-level technical approach documents

Stupid objection the second: (something stupid about 12 volts)
Response:

Will be taking in 450 V DC power in series with a 10 Ω resistor
Must output 240 V, 60 Hz AC single phase power

I know that slashdotters don't RTFA, but seriously, all of you jaw-jacking about 12 volts or about how a million is chump change are a bunch of Useless McToolbags. STFU already.

mod parent up & read it before you post idiocy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511349)

n/t

Re:I know this is /. but RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511781)

I think unfortunately this clause "Google may choose to make public some or all of the teamsâ(TM) high-level technical approach documents" does not make it a stupid objections, it means the team entering better have all their IP properly patented throughout the world or they may find they just produced free technology for someone else.

Time to get rid of inverters (isn't it?) (-1)

cmeans (81143) | about 4 months ago | (#47511285)

I know nothing about electricity other than the fact that AC and DC are different, so feel free to mod this down.

Assuming that our DC sources of electricity are already somewhat efficient, why don't we just have other things that use that current be DC as well?

It would seem that inverters loose some "energy" in the conversion process, which is why we need this Google like X Prize to develop something more efficient...so taking them out of the equation seems like it would be a good idea.

Is it just that we're so used to designing electronics etc. to use AC, or are there other benefits? and, if so, then why not put effort into designing AC sources of electricity?

Re:Time to get rid of inverters (isn't it?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511403)

It would seem that inverters loose some "energy" in the conversion process

What do you mean by energy that isn't tight. I've heard you Republicans use that term, but I've never met any of your kind that can explain what you mean.

Re:Time to get rid of inverters (isn't it?) (1)

cmeans (81143) | about 4 months ago | (#47511509)

Thank-you for pointing out my spelling mistake.

Re:Time to get rid of inverters (isn't it?) (2)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 months ago | (#47511663)

I know nothing about electricity

So you figured you'd post your suggestion on /. instead of attempting even the most cursory self-directed research. Gotcha. Laziness for the win.

Is it just that we're so used to designing electronics etc. to use AC, or are there other benefits?

Its easier to transmit long distances, at high voltages.
Its trivial to step up and down to different voltage levels via transformers. The equivalent in DC is not simple.

Mechanical AC generators are simpler and cheaper to build and maintain. And nearly all electicity is generated from mechanical sources (turbines).

Hydro and tidal are water driven turbines. Coal, wood, biomass (methane), natural gas, nuclear, even geothermal electricity are all "steam driving turbine" eleciticity generators, wind is an air driven turbine.

That leaves solar, which IS DC. Worldwide, like 0.2% of electricy is from solar.

Batteries too, are DC, but are charged nearly exclusively from AC sources.

then why not put effort into designing AC sources of electricity?

I guess so. I mean, only 99.8% of electricity comes from AC sources. Just imagine what they could do if they put some effort into designing some AC sources, right? :p

Re:Time to get rid of inverters (isn't it?) (2)

cmeans (81143) | about 4 months ago | (#47511779)

Thanks. I've learned something, and yes, this was much easier than Googling. Now I just have to Google to find out if you're blowing smoke up my kilt or not.

But, seriously....thanks!

black box cheat (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511363)

My "inverter" contains a plutonium RTG.

I have a truly (1)

fisted (2295862) | about 4 months ago | (#47511439)

I have a truly marvelous design for a kilowatt-scale power inverter which unfortunately this comment box is too narrow to contain...

Kittens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511451)

Can I use kittens in my design?

Re:Kittens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511685)

Does it output pop tarts, with the electricity as a side effect?

Re:Kittens? (1)

lgw (121541) | about 4 months ago | (#47511753)

Can I use kittens in my design?

Yes, as long as they fit in the box (so you're likely limited to 1 kitten), and as long as they're not water cooled kittens.

Everything but the 40 in^3 (2, Interesting)

tesla_reincarnated (1773220) | about 4 months ago | (#47511519)

The start up I work for practically has this product to a T. The only design spec's we don't match are the 40 in^3 (we are slightly larger, but smaller than a briefcase) and the output voltage (we do 480V 3-phase rather than 240 single). Otherwise (power density, harmonics, ability to handle loads, etc.) we've got covered. This isn't a ploy, but if anyone is interested in what we do (10 person team, solar inverter manufacturer in silicon valley) check out www.HiQSolar.com

About 4x beyond current production. (1)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#47511533)

As an actual product available right now, there's this 250 watt inverter. [enphase.com] from Enphase, intended to work with one solar panel. That's 54 cubic inches, or 12W/cubic inch. Google wants 50W/cubic inch, so Google is asking for 4x the power density. This one happens to be configured for 48VDC input, but that's not hard to change. It exceeds the efficiency limit set by Google.

Enphase sells those little inverters for a one-inverter-per-solar-panel system, where power is combined on the AC side. The inverter, at 171 mm x 173 mm x 30 mm, is a lot smaller than the panel it sits behind. Making it smaller won't have any effect on system size.

One big difference: Enphase offers a 25 year warranty on that unit. Google only wants to run for 100 hours. They'll probably get something that will pass their tests but wouldn't last a year in a real solar installation.

Re:About 4x beyond current production. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511773)

Longevity is a solvable problem from an engineering standpoint. It might be expensive, but should be solvable.

A good working knowledge of your components is required, and the knowhow to ensure they are all being operated within their tolerance. (And the knowhow to over-spec critical devices in the event of a worse-than-worst-case scenario)

Of course, you might end up with a case where your project exceeds the tolerances of any readily available (Or economically viable) components, in which case your project is a failure.

Re:About 4x beyond current production. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511813)

They'll probably get something that will pass their tests but wouldn't last a year in a real solar installation.

That would be perfect for them then as most google devices don't last a year either.

Seems odd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47511725)

The people who should have already figured this out are the people sponsoring the event. Seriously, what backyard engineer is going to have the resources to design and prototype this thing? A million bucks would be a drop in the pan for the present commercial manufacturers, little incentive to reinvent their products. I see this going nowhere.

Who gets the prize when several teams meet spec? (1)

sberge (2725113) | about 4 months ago | (#47511751)

Couldn't find the answer on the site. May be blind.
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