A chemical reaction-powered car designed by chemical engineering students from Missouri University of Science and Technology recently beat 10 other entries, earning the Missouri S&T team a trip to a national competition set for November in Salt Lake City.
The Midwestern Chem-E Car competition was part of the two-day 2010 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Mid-America Regional Conference, held April 9-10 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. The annual Chem-E Car competition challenges students to design and build a chemical reaction-powered car that must travel a specified distance. The teams are not notified of the actual distance until 1 hour before the event.
The S&T team’s car came closest to the finish line, stopping 4 1/2 inches beyond it.
The S&T team built a car powered by a lead-acid battery. The car’s “braking” ability is created via an iodine clock reaction that involves a photo sensor system, says team president Alex Pearson, a junior in chemical engineering from Louisville, Ky.
At the starting line, the students inject a solution of sodium iodate into a beaker filled with a clear solution. Over time, the solution turns dark. “This color change is detected by a photo sensor that trips a relay and kills power to the car,” says Pearson. “We vary our distance by altering the concentration of sodium iodate.”
Also during the conference, Missouri S&T’s team won first place for best vehicle design and first place in the poster competition.
In addition to Pearson, members of the Missouri S&T Chem-E Car Team include:
Dr. Daniel Forciniti, professor of chemical and biological engineering, is the team’s advisor.