Red Electrical Devils’ $1,000,000 Winning Google Little Box Challenge Inverter was Powered by GaN Systems’ Transistors
March 08, 2016
Team achieved landmark 10X smaller design using gallium nitride transistors
OTTAWA, Ontario – After months of excitement and speculation, the results of the Google Little Box Challenge have been announced, and GaN Systems can reveal that their gallium nitride power transistors were instrumental in achieving the winning design. Google and the IEEE Power Electronics Society awarded the $1 Million prize to CE+T’s Red Electrical Devils for designing, building and demonstrating an inverter with the highest power density and smallest volume. The competition included more than 2,000 registered teams, from which 18 finalists were selected. After 4 months of testing the finalists’ designs, the $1M prize winner was announced at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, DC.
Why did Google launch a power electronics contest and award $1,000,000? Because the world’s unrelenting demand for more power is unsustainable without using fewer manufacturing materials and consuming less energy to operate the burgeoning number of electronic devices. And why did they focus on inverters? Because inverters, which convert direct current (DC) from solar panels or batteries into the alternating current (AC) that is used to power homes, businesses, motors and cars, consume vast amounts of materials and energy. The Little Box Challenge organizers dared the world’s engineers, “Figure out how to shrink an inverter down to something smaller than a small laptop (a reduction of > 10× in volume) and smaller than everyone else, and you’ll win a million dollars (and help revolutionize electricity for the next century).”
The key goal of the challenge was to reach an inverter power density in excess of 50 W/cubic inch in a volume of under 40 cubic inches – a feat which had never been done before. The Red Electrical Devils presented their entry at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, and successfully passed exhaustive testing. Their winning inverter design produced a power density of 143 W/cubic inch in 14 cubic inches, outperforming the Little Box Challenge power density goal by nearly a factor of 3, which, according to Google, “is 10 times more compact than commercially available inverters.”
Central to the team’s success were the GS66508P gallium nitride power transistors from GaN Systems, the leading manufacturer of GaN power devices. Commenting on the role that GaN transistors played in their design, team member Olivier Bomboir, VP of Product Management and New Business at CE+T Power, explained, “The use of GaN technology enabled our team to reach a power density of ~145 W/in³ for the 2 kVA inverter designed for this project. The reduced gate drive and switching losses of GaN Systems’ GS66508P were critical to our thermal and power density goals. Additionally, we were highly impressed at how reliably the devices performed over the months of rigorous, real-world testing by the NREL team.”
GaN Systems’ CEO, Jim Witham, said, “We congratulate the winners for their groundbreaking accomplishment, and are very excited that GaN Systems’ products played a key role in helping the Red Electrical Devils win The Little Box Challenge. This achievement is added confirmation that gallium nitride semiconductors are instrumental in helping power design engineers respond to the ever increasing need to develop more efficient power conversion solutions. GaN technology clearly paves the way toward more powerful, compact and efficient inverter designs.”
About GaN Systems
GaN Systems is the place electronics designers go to realize all the system benefits of gallium nitride transistors in their power conversion applications. To overcome silicon’s limitations in switching speed, voltage and current, the company develops the most complete range of gallium nitride power switching transistors for consumer, datacenter, industrial and transportation markets. GaN Systems’ Island Technology® addresses today’s challenges of cost, performance, and manufacturability resulting in products that are smaller and more efficient than other GaN design approaches. The fabless semiconductor company is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. For more information, please visit: www.gansystems.com
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