Lab Partnering Service Discovery
Use the LPS faceted search filters, or search by keywords, to narrow your results.
Google and the IEEE Power Electronics Society are working with NREL at the ESIF on the Little Box Challenge, an open competition challenging engineers to build smaller power inverters for use in photovoltaic (PV) power systems.
Up to 18 finalists in the Challenge will be invited to bring their inverter to the ESIF in 2015 for testing and evaluation against the contest parameters. NREL’s world-class researchers will use the state-of-the-art capabilities of the ESIF to evaluate each inverter’s efficiency and performance during tests spanning 100 hours under the same set of typical operating conditions. The test results will help Google and IEEE decide the winner of the $1 million prize, which in 2016 will go to the team that designs and builds a kilowatt-scale inverter with the highest power density and that meets the contest’s other specifications.
The goal of the Little Box Challenge is to create a smaller,more efficient power inverter. Currently, inverters are about the size of a picnic cooler, and Google would like to see the technology shrink to the size of a small laptop computer or smaller. Shrinking the current inverter by 10 times or more and making it cheaper to produce and install would enable more PV-powered homes and more efficient distribution grids, and help bring electricity to remote areas.
Hybrid car sales have taken off in recent years, with a fuel-sipping combination of electric- and gas-powered technologies that simultaneously deliver energy efficiency, low emissions, and strong performance. The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—which played a pivotal role in putting hybrids on the road—has applied a similar strategy to its talent base and partnerships, bringing together the best minds from the worlds of research and industry.
NREL's Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center (THSC) provides just one example of how NREL partners with industry to address some of the toughest energy efficiency challenges. NREL's work with individual companies—from startups to established corporations—includes full collaboration, technical assistance, deployment guidance, research facility use, and technology licensing. The lab has also attracted national-caliber experts to its staff from the commercial sector, while continuing to bank on the intellectual capital of its research veterans.
For instance, THSC Director Chris Gearhart and Vehicle Technologies Laboratory Program Manager John Farrell joined NREL in 2013 after three collective decades in the automotive and fuels industries.
"We recruited Chris and John because we knew they could effectively steer our transportation team even further along in meeting the Energy Department's goals and the NREL mission," said Associate Lab Director for Mechanical and Thermal Systems Engineering Barbara Goodman. "Their ability to provide industry perspectives was essential for maintaining our relevance."
Gearhart led research and development (R&D) teams at Ford Motor Company for more than 16 years, as well as playing pivotal roles in product development, safety research, and quality assurance programs. Farrell came to NREL after 15 years at the ExxonMobil Corporate Strategic Research Lab, where he held R&D, technical, strategic planning, and program management positions, leading collaborations with Toyota, Caterpillar, and Ford.
"Even in my Ford days, reducing petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas production was my mantra," said Gearhart, who championed the company's fuel cell system, stack, and hydrogen storage research efforts. "Being able to focus 100% on sustainable transportation solutions was the logical next step."
Farrell might have spent most of his career in private industry, but he also draws on considerable experience working with Sandia, Oak Ridge, and Argonne national labs on Energy Department projects. He carried this spirit of public-private partnership with him to NREL.
"The government, automakers, component manufacturers—they're all our partners," Farrell said. "We're an Energy Department lab, responsible for moving forward energy-efficient solutions with the potential for significant market impact. That means our work must deliver the greatest possible energy savings, while being informed by private-sector realities."
For more NREL success stories visit http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/success_stories.html