Dunn:Education/Outreach/ChemE Car

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The ChemE Car is a competition hosted by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) where students must design cars that use chemical reactions as their power. Cars must travel specific distances using only the energy from chemical reactions as their "fuel."

In 2013, Stanford's ChemE Car Team placed 5th out of 10 teams at the Western Regional Conference/Competition in San Diego, CA. The car was run off of a magnesium-lemon juice redox reaction and stopped with a vitamin C - iodine clock reaction. If you ask me, this vitamin C-iodine clock reaction seems like a pretty clever way to time the reaction appropriately.

The team was 5 meters short of the target 15 meters. The winners were 1.5 meters short. (To put in perspective, the Stanford team has previously achieved 13 and 14 inches away from the target line.) They had 15 magnesium-lemon juice cells in series, but they believe that the car ran slower than expected because the cells didn't generate as much power as expected. 15 cells had worked well during tests, but in retrospect, it would have been safer to add a few more.

Stanford's ChemE car team had two newcomers attend the competition, and they helped do an excellent job on preparing and presenting the car. Although the team didn't win the competition this year, a nice consolation prize is winning the Best Poster Award for the second straight year! This award meant that the judges felt that they had a strong understanding of the chemistry that went into the car and presented the poster better than any other school.

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