Future chemical engineers race for finish line with fuel cell car

December 17, 2004
Future chemical engineers race for finish line with fuel cell car

Two UH students first to go national, place high in competition

Putting the pedal to the metal, two University of Houston chemical engineering students tested their mettle with the creation of a fuel-cell-driven car in the national "Chem-E-Car" competition. The pair placed 13th among nearly 40 teams from across the country.

Testing their classroom knowledge by building shoebox-sized cars powered by chemical reactions, Mansour AbdulBaki and Adrian Morales, senior chemical engineering students and members of UH's student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), became the first-ever UH students to participate at the national level. After capturing a second-place finish at the regional competition during the Spring '04 semester, AbdulBaki and Morales were pleased with their national debut at the sixth annual competition this fall in Austin.

Since no one from UH had ever participated before, the students agreed that they had to initiate the process themselves, along with financial sponsorship from the UH AIChE student chapter. Successfully applying their knowledge to construct a winning racecar that took the better part of a year to build, the students were required to construct a vehicle that carried a predetermined weight a particular distance before stopping. AbdulBaki and Morales' miniature car obtained its energy from a fuel cell reaction, making it more environmentally friendly.

"We started off using a chemical battery, but it performed poorly and we eventually moved to the idea of a fuel-cell-powered car," said Morales, current vice president of the UH chapter of AIChE.

The competition requires students to use controlled chemical reactions in designing and operating shoebox-sized cars. Making things more challenging, the students are given the payload and distance that their vehicles must carry and travel only an hour before the race begins. In this case, their racecar needed to transport 400 milliliters of water 75 feet. Students also include a poster presentation demonstrating their understanding of the chemical reactions used and their attention to safety. Facing new obstacles to overcome and generating new ideas proves challenging, but the competitors have an invaluable opportunity to apply ideas learned from coursework.

"We are proud to have achieved our goals," said AbdulBaki, former president and current Web master of UH's AIChE. "We wanted to earn recognition for UH and our highly ranked, but relatively underexposed, Department of Chemical Engineering and to start a tradition of competition and achievement in our department and the UH AIChE chapter."

The next round of competitions is scheduled to begin in March and April for all nine regions throughout the nation, and the upcoming generation of UH chemical engineering students has already begun design preparations for next year's competition with a new team currently being formed.

AIChE is a professional association of more than 46,000 chemical engineers in 92 countries that use their knowledge of chemical processes to develop safe and useful products for the benefit of society.

Source: University of Houston

Explore further: Students develop bacteria cells capable of independently producing a bio-lens

Related Stories

What are CubeSats?

October 3, 2016

One of the defining characteristics of the modern era of space exploration is the open nature of it. In the past, space was a frontier that was accessible only to two federal space agencies – NASA and the Soviet space program. ...

Balancing the 'yin' and 'yang' in lithium sulfur batteries

October 20, 2016

This decade has witnessed a rapid development in electric vehicles and portable electronics, accompanied by ever-increasing research enthusiasm for high-energy-density rechargeable batteries with long service life. Conventional ...

Engineers transform brewery wastewater into energy storage

October 7, 2016

University of Colorado Boulder engineers have developed an innovative bio-manufacturing process that uses a biological organism cultivated in brewery wastewater to create the carbon-based materials needed to make energy storage ...

Scientists rev up speed of bionic enzyme reactions

October 6, 2016

Bionic enzymes got a needed boost in speed thanks to new research at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). By pairing a noble metal with a natural enzyme, scientists created a hybrid ...

Getting to a zero carbon future

October 17, 2016

Avoiding the worst consequences of climate change by reducing global carbon emissions to as close to zero as possible is one of humanity's most pressing challenges. The University of California San Diego has launched the ...

Recommended for you

How Frankenstein saved humankind from probable extinction

October 28, 2016

Frankenstein as we know him, the grotesque monster that was created through a weird science experiment, is actually a nameless Creature created by scientist Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, "Frankenstein." ...

Self-sealing syringe prevents blood loss in hemophilic mice

October 28, 2016

(Phys.org)—For people whose blood does not clot appropriately, such as those with hemophilia, diabetes, or cancer, getting an injection or blood draw with a hypodermic needle is not a trivial matter. Because the needle ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.