2017 Chem-E Car Competition in Minneapolis Reaction
Each year, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers hosts a national competition for students majoring in chemical engineering and similar such sciences. This event, aptly called the Chem-E-Car Competition, engages students to design a small-scale car powered by chemistry to carry a specified amount of water while traveling a predetermined distance. Only chemical reactions are allowed within this competition, and schools across the nation (and even internationally) came up with unique chemical combinations that made their car unique.
New York never ceases to innovate, and the New York college that participated in this years Chem-E Car Competition is proof of that. The City College of New York’s own Grove School of Engineering designed a car they called Sulfurious. This creation used a color-changing chemical reaction between HCL and Na2S2O3 (sodium thiosulfate). The battery source, which was designed for this years competition as well, was composed Zn-MnO2 (zinc manganese Dioxide). Cooper Union, meanwhile, used a reaction of MgCO3 (magnesium carbonate) and C6H8O7 (citric acid) mixed with water. Their car, Lemon Aid, allowed the the school to win 5th place in performance.
Outside of the Northeast region, schools all over the U.S. submitted their own cars. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga created a car called Chem-eleon. This car used a C6H12O6 (glucose) and KMnO4 (potassium permanganate) reaction. The reaction causes a color change which the car’s stopping mechanism is able to detect and cause a stopping reaction in response.The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with their car called The Great Gasby used a reaction between KMnO4 (potassium permanganate) and C2H2O4 (oxalic acid) to create gas pressure to move the vehicle forward. Meanwhile, Texas Tech University named their car Tower of Power to reflect on the fact that it was powered by an exothermic reaction of water and aluminum with catalytic promoters and stopped with another reaction between CaO (calcium oxide) and water.
Even international schools had a part in this years competition. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with their car called Indigo utilized their own color-changing chemical reaction with a stopping reaction. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) entered this year with a car powered by a V (vanadium) redox flow battery with an Iodine clock stop reaction. This year the winning car called Spektronics 14 came from the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember in Indonesia. Their car was powered by an Al (aluminum) air battery, where a reaction with aluminum and air would cause a color change that the car’s chemical sensor could detect and thereby stop in time.
Many schools participated in this years competition, and it would take a long while to discuss how each and every car had their own chemical innovations. The main point of this annual event, as stressed by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, is to motivate students to research new ideas, problem solve, experiment, and discover new ways chemistry can be used as energy.
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