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Internet giant Google has teamed up with IEEE to launch the Little Box Challenge, an open competition to build a much smaller power inverter.

The companies say the Little Box Challenge, which will offer a $1 million prize, is designed to spur innovation that can drive a 10 times or greater reduction in the size of power inverters. Inverters are used to convert direct-current energy that comes from wind, solar and electric vehicles, among other things, into alternating current. Specifically, the project is looking for a kilowatt-scale inverter that is the size of a small laptop and has a power density greater than 50 W per cubic inch.

The companies say these technology advancements can lead to higher efficiency, increased reliability and lower energy costs. For example, a smaller inverter could help create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world.

“We are very pleased to present this important initiative together with Google to encourage innovation,” comments Don Tan, president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society. “By participating in this challenge, members of industry and academia can play a pivotal role in a technological innovation that could have a major impact on the world.”

Registration for the competition is due Sept. 30, and the contest will run through 2015. For more information on the Little Box Challenge, click here.

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