Who are we?
Cornell ChemE Car is a happy family housed in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering but open of anyone who wants to join. Below, we detail some general information about the team and the competition. For our contact information, please scroll towards the bottom of this page.
Lying around the car team lab are the remnants of cars past. Based on extensive archeological work, we have hypothesized the following: At one time, there was a car powered by some sort of homemade battery. It used two sewing boxes to separate multiple cells (~16). Copper wire was involved (maybe as the anode? cathode?). The power generated by these batteries was then used to drive an electric motor (specifications unknown). The chassis was built of wood, and rollerblade wheels were used. We found what we believe to be the remains of some sort of air-motor powered car. However, the few fragments remaining make it difficult to guess as to the design and function of the car. There exists the body of some sort of remote control car. It has a neat suspension system which, we hypothesize, allowed it to travel over bumps with relative ease. Little else is known about the car.
What is ChemE Car?
ChemE Car is an annual competition sponsored by American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AlChE). The goal of the competition is to build a chemically-powered car (roughly the size of a shoebox) which can travel 50-100 ft while carrying a water payload of 0-500 mL. Each spring, AIChE holds nine regional conferences. The top three winners move on to compete in the national competition held in the Fall. Cornell competes in the Northeast region against RPI, Northeastern University, University of Maine, etc.
How does the competition work?
For a comprehensive explanation of the competition rules, please refer you to AIChE's official competition rules. The main rules are highlighted below:
Let's begin with the physical constraints of the car.
When disassembled, the car must be able to fit into a 40 cm by 30 cm by 18 cm box. It must be capable of safely holding up to 500 mL of water.
In addition, the car must be powered by chemical reactions only, and should cost no more than $2,000. Kits (a common fuel cell car) cannot be used without extensive modification and commercial batteries are not allowed. More importantly, the car cannot have any brakes or other mechanical/electronic stopping devices. There will be a poster session prior to each competition and a panel of judges will inspect the car. Safety is the primary concern of these inspections, but there will be opportunities to discuss novel design features of the car, environmental and safety features, etc. Teams must score at least 70 out of 100 in the poster session to be allowed to race.
The competition is held on a course which can be anywhere from 50 to 100 feet in length. At the beginning of the competition, the judges will announce the distance and water payload (0-500 mL). There are two rounds in the competition. The order of the first race is determined by teams' score during the poster session. The order of the second round is determined by performance during the first round. The higher your score in the first round (that is, the closer you are to the target line), the later in round two you will go. An extremely important rule during the race is as follows: when the announcer calls start, a car must start moving, traverse the distance, and come to a complete stop within two minutes. This rule has been the bane of many excellent cars, which just kept going, and going, and going, and going... A word on safety: in recent years, due to some publicized accidents, AIChE has made safety the prime focus of the competition. Each team is required to submit a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) months ahead of the competition, detailing the safety aspects of the car. Also, almost all car disqualifications at the competitions are due to safety violations. Take safety seriously.
During the 2012-13 academic year, the team will meet on Wednesdays at 5:00 P.M. in Olin Hall, Room 255. Each sub-team will hold weekly meetings at different times throughout the week (contact the corresponding sub-team leaders for the time and location). Anyone is welcome to attend these meetings.
Our advisor is Prof. Roseanna Zia. We would also like to recognize some of the other contributors to the team: Professor T. Michael Duncan, for use of his lab space Professor Lynden Archer, the William C. Hooey Director of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, for his enthusiasm and support Professor Paulette Clancy, the preceding William C. Hooey Director of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, for her continued support of the car team Glenn Swan, for his continued help with fabrication and all things machine shop-related
If you have any questions about the car team, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you are welcome to stop by weekly team meetings (they can be quite enjoyable). If you see the captains or any of the other team members in Olin Hall, feel free to stop them and talk about any questions/concerns you may have.
The dry cell battery team was one of the two sub-teams that were created after Bender 4.0, our hydrogen fuel cell car, retired. After the lack of power and reliability from the aluminum-air battery that we tried with MacGyver, we needed a more stable and potent power source. After much research, we came across the idea of creating dry cell batteries, much like the batteries we use in our daily lives. For the first three semesters, we worked with zinc-carbon batteries, which uses zinc as the anode, a mixture of manganese dioxide and carbon as the cathode, and, lastly zinc chloride and aluminum chloride as electrolytes.
After a slow start, we eventually came up with a packing method with which each battery can achieve up to 1.5 V and ~5.0 A of short circuit current. Our first zinc-carbon battery car, the Mauve Avenger, placed third at the 2010 Regionals at Johns Hopkins University. After over 200 more calibration runs, Zoidberg, our second zinc-carbon battery car, placed first at the 2010 Nationals in Salt Lake City. For the 2011 competitions, we decided to use alkaline batteries, which are very similar to zinc-carbon batteries, but use potassium hydroxide as the electrolytes. We were able to achieve similar results with these, with the added bonus of durability. We placed first at the 2011 Regionals at the University of Rhode Island, with our alkaline battery car, Zoidberg II.
After two years of zinc and carbon based batteries, we are currently researching other batteries, namely lithium-ion batteries, to use at the next competition.
In it's current iteration, the Fuel Cell group hopes to build upon the success of Bender 4.0, our first ever Nationals winner. We have a fresh team with brand new ideas that is building a car from the ground. Our goal is to design an efficient storage and delivery process for ultra high purity hydrogen to power a PEM fuel cell. The basic setup includes a small aluminum vessel for hydrogen storage at low pressure, safety valves, and a 20W 13-Cell fuel stack.
The team is designing an improved manifold to host our valves and regulators. Our focus on safety in designs has led to the inclusion of pressure relief valves along with two-stage regulators to ensure smooth hydrogen flow across fuel stacks. We also plan to translate our plans into 3-D AutoCad templates to aid the design of a fully machined chassis. Lastly, we aim to add a series of power regulators and electronic flow gauges to monitor our car's performance during both calibration and competition runs. We have set our sights on winning Regionals 2012 and then it will be off to Pittsburgh for the real challenge!
The pressure sub-team is currently working on a car powered by a gas-producing reaction. We plan on using the pressure created by the reaction to power a tool that will create electricity with a generator, which, in turn, will power the motor. As our stopping mechanism, we are using a typical iodine clock reaction so that after a certain amount of time, no light will pass through a light sensor and the circuit will trip. As a result, the motor will stop. Our sub-team is split into two groups; one works on the chemistry and pressure vessel for the reaction and the other works to harness the pressure needed to power the motor. Together, these two groups will create a working pressure car much different from our previous designs.
Currently the potions team is working on a new delivery system to eliminate human error because favorable performance at competitions depend on consistency. The original design uses a syringe which contains the chemicals, but depending on the speed at which the solution is injected, the reaction rate can vary. Eliminating this problem is a main goal for the newest car design, mainly since chassis team will be creating new platform to work on. As a side project we are working tp create a sterling engine. Our previous attempt was only partially successful due to a misaligned camshaft that caused the car to get stuck at the very top before it was able to swing down and complete a full cycle. Even with a few past failures, the sterling engine is a feasible power source, and we are optimistic about our future designs.
Information sub-team is the administrative division of ChemE car. We mainly focus on recruitment, website and data maintenance, campus outreach, and inter-team communication. This semester, new volunteers are being trained in working with HTML5 and CSS while current members are looking into digitizing physical documents and updating the website.
The finance sub-team is responsible for Cornell ChemE Car's fundraising and sponsorship efforts. We are also committed to maintaining good relations with our current sponsors. We have produced sponsorship packages and liaises with companies and Cornell to obtain funding. This semester, we aim to attract new sponsor and apply accounting principles to the team's accounts.
Chassis and Electronics
As the name suggests, the Chassis and Electronics subteam is responsible for the design and construction of two major parts of the ChemE car: a chassis and an electronic circuit. The chassis includes the wheels, the main body support, and the transmission that converts chemical/electrical energy into mechanical power. The electronics consist of a circuitry connecting the energy source to the transmission and a stopping mechanism that controls the distance traveled by the car. For each competition, the chassis and the electronics are modified or completely redesigned in order to accommodate new power sources (eg. battery, fuel cell, and pressure).
The main goal for all chassis designs is to have a light-weight car capable of traveling as straight as possible. A light-weight chassis is highly preferred since it minimizes loss of energy. Likewise, a chassis that goes straight allows for accurate calibration, a vital aspect in winning the ChemE Car competition. Similarly, the general guideline for the circuit design is to minimize the energy loss across the circuit while responding quickly and precisely to the stopping mechanism.
So far this semester, the Safety Team has completed the EDP (Engineering Documentation Package) and made sure that car safety and personal protective equipment are up to standards for Nationals. At the previous national competition, we passed the safety inspection and learned about the safety of different types of cars in order to prepare for the intrasquad ChemE Car Competition.
The team as a whole is responsible for ensuring that lab safety is maintained at all times. We make sure that the working conditions are safe and in conjunction with OSHA guidelines and Cornell policies. In addition, all reactions considered as part of the car designs must be approved by the Safety team.
Benefits of Sponsorship
The Cornell ChemE Car Team has high visibility in the chemical engineering domain due to our appearances and achievements in the regional, national and international competitions. We can harness this visibility to promote your company at the competitions as well as in Cornell University. We have received extensive coverage in AIChEs Chemical Engineering Progress (AIChE CEP) magazine and were featured on AIChEs ChEnected website for chemical engineering professionals. Cornell-based publications like the Cornell Chronicle and the Cornell Daily Sun have also drawn attention to our victories. Your honored sponsorship would increase the exposure your company has, which could translate into greater recruitment opportunities. In our sponsorship packet you will find detailed information about the Team and how sponsors can receive the maximum benefits and exposures.
Interested in Sponsoring Us?
The Cornell ChemE Car Team earnestly seeks your sponsorship. While Cornell College of Engineering and the Cornell Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department have been supporting our team,
we require monetary resources and donations in kind from sponsors to larger advances in car design and power generation.
The Cornell ChemE Car Team has big dreams for the future.
If you are interested in supporting our team, please click here to download our Sponsorship Packet.
Merck & Co. Inc.
College of Engineering