UB Team Places Fourth in National Chem-E-Car Competition

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: December 28, 2005 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "Mr. Freeze," the Chem-E-Car designed by chemical engineering students in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, finished fourth in the seventh annual Chem-E-Car competition held recently in Cincinnati.

The competition, which kicked off the annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), attracted students from 31 universities across the country. The institutions that participated in the competition had placed in first, second or third in their regional competitions to qualify for the national competition.

UB's team placed second at the regional conference in Easton, Pa., in April.

The competition requires students to power shoebox-sized cars via a chemical reaction and carry a specified payload for a given distance. Students are not given the payload or distance until one hour before the competition.

The UB students met regularly from the start of the semester, said Lindsay Mroz, president of UB's AIChE student chapter and a member of the Chem-E-Car team.

"The team collectively came up with the design we used in the competition," she said. "The car was powered by a sodium borohydride electrolyte fuel cell and was stopped by dissolving magnesium ribbon in hydrochloric acid. As the magnesium was connected in series with the fuel cells, the car stopped when the ribbon broke, due to an incomplete circuit."

"Other reactions for the propulsion mechanism include aluminum air cells and the water-gas shift reaction," Mroz added.

In this year's event, students were challenged to transport 300 milliliters of water 79 feet. The teams got two chances to run their cars, with their final score being their best attempt at exactly meeting the specified distance.

While each team has a faculty advisor to offer guidance, the final products are conceptualized and developed by the students.

"The Chem-E-Car team did an excellent job in preparing for this competition," said Emmanouhl (Manolis) Tzanakakis, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering who served as advisor to the UB team. "Besides teamwork, the students had the opportunity to experience in practice some of the difficulties associated with applying what they are taught in class. Such an experience will be a valuable asset as they are preparing for their professional careers."

In addition to Mroz, who resides in Hamburg, members of the UB team include Alex Buffone and Abhijeet Kohli, both of Niagara Falls; Robert Forbes of Victor; William Frank of Hauppauge; Rachel Frydrychowski of Buffalo; Michelle Halvarson of Lewiston; Nicole Hartley of LeRoy; Jeffery Kraska of Depew; Andrew Waterman of Hamburg; Sarah O'Hara of Jordan; and Stacy Pustulka of West Seneca. Wei Seang Ooi of Penang, Malaysia, also is a member of the team.