Cornell Students Win Chem-E-Cars Competition | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: November 18, 2008

Cornell Students Win Chem-E-Cars Competition

Student-designed hydrogen fuel-cell car hits the mark in 10th annual contest
Department: ACS News | Collection: Green Chemistry
Cornell team shows off its winning car.
Credit: AIChE
Cornell team shows off its winning car.
Credit: AIChE

Chemical engineering students from Cornell University took first place in the 2008 Chem-E-Cars competition on Nov. 16. The national finals for the annual alternative-fuel vehicle competition were held in Philadelphia at the centennial meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

This year???s competition specified that shoebox-sized vehicles would have to carry 250 mL of water 60 feet from the starting line. But the 29 teams in the competition didn???t learn the specific cargo size or distance until one hour before the start. The challenge was to calculate the amount of fuel needed to power the car so that when the chemical reaction ended, the vehicle would stop as close as possible to the finish line.

Cornell???s team nabbed the $2,000 top prize when the front wheels of its hydrogen-fuel-cell car halted precisely on the line???a first in the competition???s 10-year history.

The second and third place teams both used engines fueled by carbon dioxide-producing reactions. Louisiana State University placed second with a vehicle powered by way of reacting sodium carbonate with citric acid. In third place, Texas A&M University???s team combined sodium carbonate and hydrochloric acid to power its car.

The annual competition gives students a chance to get creative and raises their awareness about safety and alternative forms of energy, says H. Scott Fogler, AIChE???s president-elect, a founder of the competition, and a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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