Mighty mini cars operate on chemical reaction


From left, UA AIChe faculty adviser Dr. Chelsea Monty, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Bradford Vielhaber, Chem-E-Car team co-captain; Paul Young, Chem-E-Car co-captain; and Marcus Grimm, conference chair.

Charged with pressure caused by chemical reactions, 12 shoebox-size autos designed by chemical engineering students from The University of Akron and 10 other universities will compete in a race Saturday, April 21, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at James A. Rhodes Arena. The Chem-E-Car competition is the headline event of the 2012 North-Central Regional American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Conference, hosted by UA.
Each carrying a 0-500 mL payload, in the form of a filled water bottle, the cars move at about 2 feet per second on a 15- to 30-meter course. The cars run using environmentally friendly green methods, which do not emit liquid or gas pollution, such as exhaust. UA's Chem-E-Car, Spontaneous Combustion, for example, is powered by an alkaline fuel cell and stops by way of an electrochemical cell.

"The competition is not a speed race," explains conference chair Marcus Grimm, UA chemical and biomolecular senior and captain of UA's winning 2011 Chem-E-Car team. "In fact, it is better for your car to go slower because if your chemical reaction is off one second, then the distance that you miss is smaller. The competition is a test of how well you can control the distance your car travels."

Dr. J. Richard Elliott, professor of chemical engineering, will serve as master of ceremonies, and a half-time show will be presented by Nuance, UA's men's a cappella group. Last year's UA team, under adviser Dr. Chelsea Monty, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, won the North-Central Regional Chem-E-Car, poster and paper competitions. This was UA’s third regional championship.

Spontaneous Combustion looking for home field advantage

This year, UA’s Chem-E-Car team, again under adviser Monty, and its car, Spontaneous Combustion, will compete against teams from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Michigan Technological University, Ohio State University, Ohio University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Cincinnati, University of Wisconsin and West Virginia University.

UA's Chem-E-Car team prepares chemicals prior to testing. Tteam members, from left, Adam Harrell, Christopher Denison, Kylie Trumpower, Evan Arnold and Jordan Shaffer. UA’s Chem-E-Car Spontaneous Combustion is powered by an alkaline fuel cell and stops by way of an electrochemical cell.

In addition to the Chem-E-Car race and research paper and poster competitions, the conference will feature a Chem-E-Jeopardy contest and speakers from Bridgestone/Firestone, NASA, Lubrizol and other companies.
"Hosting the 2012 AIChE Student Conference is truly a great opportunity to introduce the brightest chemical engineering students throughout our region to The University of Akron," says Grimm. "The conference will bring companies to the Akron campus to network with students and it will showcase prominent industrial leaders."
For more details about AIChE Student Conference and Chem-E-Car race, visit UA's North-Central Regional  Conference website.

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or henryd@uakron.edu.