Drexel Chemical Engineering Students Compete in the AlChE Chem-E Car Competition
October 15, 2010 Six Drexel chemical engineering students, advised by Dr. Jason Baxter (CBE), will race their electrochemical cell designed car as part of the AlChE 12th Annual Chem-E Car Competition in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 7, 2010 at 2 p.m. They will have the opportunity to work on a hands-on design project and increase awareness of the chemical engineering field while competing for a $2,000 prize and a trophy.
“The competition is a great opportunity for students to work on a team and apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. It also allows students to travel to different cities and universities around the country to compete on the regional and national level,” said Kevin Wujcik, one of the competing Drexel students.
The cars will have two chances to cross a specified distance while staying in bounds and stop as close to the finish line as possible while carrying a load of water. Both the distance of the course and the amount of water to be carried are not given until an hour before the competition, which ensures that the teams are able to make last-minute adjustments to their vehicles before their course run. Each attempt is given a two-minute time limit in which the car must start moving, cross the distance and come to a complete stop. The vehicle must have a considerable and determinable student design component; especially in regards to the vehicle drive system and the starting and stopping mechanisms.The vehicle must be powered and stopped by controlling a chemical reaction.
“Drexel’s car is powered by a zinc-copper electrochemical cell.The car’s electrical circuit is wired through a small strip of magnesium that is dipped in hydrochloric acid. While the car runs, the acid eats through the magnesium until the circuit breaks, causing the car to stop. We can control where the car stops by varying the acid concentration that the magnesium is dipped in,” said Wujcik.
Thirty-one cars are to compete in the national competition. The chemicals used are a cheaper alternative and have potential to be applied to future cars. For more information on the competition, please visit the AlChE website.