Chem-E-Car is an annual college competition for students majoring in Chemical Engineering.
According to the competition's official rules, students must design small-scale automobiles that operate by chemical means, along with a poster describing their research. During the competition, they must drive their car a fixed distance (judged on how close the car is to the finish line) down a wedge-shaped course in order to demonstrate its capabilities. In addition to driving a specified distance, they must also hold a payload of 0-500mL of water. The exact distance (15-30m) and payload is revealed to the participants one hour before the competition. The size of designed cars cannot exceed certain specifications and cars must operate using "green" methods, which do not release any pollution or waste in the form of a visible liquid or gas, such as exhaust.[dubious ] This competition is hosted in the United States by AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers), and winners of the competitions receive various awards, depending on how they placed.
Regional competition awards (funded by AIChE)
- 1st place – $200
- 2nd place – $100
National competition awards (funded by Chevron)
- 1st place – $2,000
- 2nd place – $1,000
- 3rd place – $500
- 2013 - University of Tulsa
- 2012 – Cornell University
- 2011 – University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
- 2010 – Cornell University
- 2009 – Northeastern University
- 2008 – Cornell University
- 2007 – Cooper Union
- 2006 – University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
- 2005 – Tennessee Tech University
- 2004 – University of Tulsa
- 2003 – University of Dayton
- 2002 – University of Kentucky, Paducah
- 2001 – Colorado State University
- 2000 – University of Akron
- 1999 – University of Michigan
The competition has a few basic rules:
- No matter how your car runs, it must be friendly to the environment and have no visible gas/liquid emissions[dubious ]
- The dimensions of the car must be no larger than 40 cm x 30 cm x 18 cm (shoebox-sized)
- The stopping mechanism has to be chemically controlled
- No commercial batteries can directly power the car
- The car can't exceed $2000 in construction
Each car is required to have a poster board explaining how the car runs (power source), some of its specific features, and how it's environmentally friendly. Judges score these posters on four different things: the description of the chemical reaction and power source (20%), the creativity of the design and its unique features (20%), environment and safety features (40%), and the overall quality of the poster, along with the team's presentation (20%). Only posters judged with a score of 70% or above may move on to the performance competition.
Some ideas for chemical reactions have been using pressurized air (creating oxygen through a chemical reaction and allowing it to build pressure) or using electricity created by the dissolving of metals in certain acids (basic battery). One pedantic idea by Cooper Union was to use a fuel cell (a cell that converts fuel to electricity via an electrochemical reaction) to power their car.
Winners in this competition aren't determined by whether their car is faster or more powerful, but how accurate their chemical reaction to stop their vehicle is. This is quite difficult, especially when the load the car must carry and distance it has to travel are unknown until the day of the competition. So teams must find a method that is flexible enough to fit a range of payloads and distances, and reliable enough so it doesn't fail with real world variables (temperature, humidity, etc.). Winners in the past have had a variety of ways of dealing with this problem, such as an "iodine clock" reaction. This reaction works by using two clear solutions (many variations) that change color after a time delay (the exact time can be found experimentally). When applied to the car, the team used a simple photo sensor that could tell when the solutions changed color, at which point the cars power would shut off by cutting the circuit. While the process itself is somewhat simple, accounting for the unknown variables like the payload and distance is quite difficult.
- "Chem-E-Car Competition Award". American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Cornell AIChE ChemE Car"
- "Chem-E-Car Competition Award". American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "AIChE's 2010 Chem-E-Car Competition rules"
- Miller, Paul."Fuel cell-powered Chem-E-Car tears its way through the halls of Cooper Union.".
- "Chem E Car Video"