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November 7, 2007

ChE Students Compete on Alternatively Fueled Cars

Rebekkah Marshall

SALT LAKE CITY – The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) has announced that The Cooper Union, took top honors at the national Chem-E-Car competition in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday. The team’s car, “Cooper Shooter”, was powered by baking soda and vinegar and defeated 28 other shoebox-size cars.

The Chem-E-Car competition was created in 1999 as a fun and practical way for students to apply their knowledge of chemical engineering principles. Historically, chemical engineers have been involved in developing new fuel technology, so AIChE created the Chem-E-Car competition to encourage college students to learn about chemical reactions that can move vehicles.

In this year’s event, students were challenged to transport 350 milliliters of water 67 feet.  The teams got two chances to run their cars, with their final score being their best attempt at meeting the established distance. The Cooper Union came the closest and took the top prize of $2,000.

Finishing in second place and taking home $1,000 was Carnegie Mellon University, using a copper zinc battery. Taking third place and $500 was the University of Oklahoma with its car, which was fueled by hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate. 
Interesting and innovative chemical reactions are used to power the cars each year. The 2007 competition was no exception, with chemical reactions using everything from Tums and Alka-Seltzer to hydrogen gas and potassium iodide.

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