Chem-E-Car

One large component of Rensselaer's AIChE chapter is its Chem-E-Car lab.

Lab times are subject to change based on weekly availability. Please contact one of our officers or fill out the sign up form at the bottom of this page if you are interested in joining ChemE Car! Also check out our Facebook group!

Summary:

The RPI ChemE Car team designs, tests, and optimizes a small-scale car powered and controlled by a chemical reaction. We are a part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and provide the only design/build competition specifically relevant to ChemEs, although what we do is still relevant to other majors who should definitely join if interested! We offer plenty of opportunities to gain real engineering experience and for open-world hands on design, both of which we consider vital aspects of an engineering education. We are a relatively new club who just competed for the first time at the AIChE northeast regional conference, and next year we are setting our sights on the national competition.

2016 RPI ChemE Car Team in our lab with our partially assembled car.

Develop Professionally:

ChemE Car members gain important skills and knowledge that can only be learned outside of the classroom. These skills and knowledge include solving open-ended problems with no “correct” answer, hands-on engineering and troubleshooting, the importance of safety considerations such as pressure relief valves and secondary containment, experience working with EHS (Environmental, Health, and Safety) to maintain a safety culture, and many more invaluable skills.

These skills have helped make ChemE Car members highly desirable to employers. ChemE Car members and alumni have obtained internships and full-time employment at companies like General Electric, GlobalFoundries, Merck & Co., Pfizer, Regeneron, SABIC, and SI Group.

Annual Conference:

AIChE’s annual Chem-E-Car Competition® engages college students in designing and constructing a car powered by a chemical energy source, that will safely carry a specified load over a given distance and stop. The competition, which involves multiple regional competitions and a final competition at the Annual Student conference, increases awareness of the chemical engineering discipline among the public, industry leaders, educators, and other students.

2016 RPI ChemE Car members celebrating our successful runs at the northeast regional competion.

We attend the Northeast regional conference annually. Every year the event is held at a different university; some previous hosts include MIT, Northeastern University, UMass Amherst, and WPI. Events consist of poster sessions, research paper contests, seminars, ChemE Jeopardy, and of course the ChemE Car competition. The RPI ChemE Car team competed for the first time at the 2016 regional conference, placing 6th out of 13. This was a great start for us, and our next goal is to set our sights on the national competition.

Our Car:

Our fully assembled pressure car at the 2016 northeast regional conference.

Currently we have one pressure-based car, which is competition ready but under heavy development. In future years we plan on building a fuel cell or battery car, manpower and resources permitting.

Our pressure car uses decomposition of hydrogen peroxide as both our driving and controlling reaction. Decomposition of the peroxide generates oxygen gas, water, water vapor, and heat. Generation of gasses causes pressure to build up in our reaction vessel. Once a sufficient pressure has been reached, a valve is opened to the rest of our pressure system which consists of a regulator, filters, emergency relief valves, and finally our pneumatic motor. The pneumatic motor then propels our car a distance proportional to the amount of peroxide used as fuel.

This year we are also planning on starting the construction of two new ChemE cars; a hydrogen fuel cell based car and a battery based car.

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