An overview of the Illinois Tech Chem-E Car

TechNews Writer
Mon Feb 18, 2019


The Chem-E Car is an organization made up of students at Illinois Tech and supported by the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE) whose project is to build a car that is powered by a chemical reaction. Despite what the name suggests, students of any major are allowed to participate, though the organization is mostly comprised of chemical engineering students. The organization is divided into three major teams: the design team, the propulsion team, and the stopping mechanism team.

The car moves in a straight line with a propulsion mechanism powered by a galvanic cell battery. The electricity in the battery is created by electrons moving through a salt bridge from a solution made from zinc to a solution made from copper. In order to get the car to stop, an iodine clock reaction engages the stopping mechanism. This reaction in particular is used because it produces a black solution and blocks light from a photoresistor, breaking the circuit in the propulsion mechanism.

The biggest challenge comes on the very day of the competition; the teams are given a specific distance to make their car run and are asked to make the car get as close as possible. In addition, there is a weight placed on top of the car. The magnitude of the weight is also unknown until the day of the competition. Only 20 minutes are given before the competition starts, so the teams must work quickly to figure out how the concentration of the chemicals will be made, as the solutions for the reaction are created on site.

Last year the competition was held in West Lafayette at Purdue University where Illinois Tech's team won best design. However, there were a few problems with the propulsion system; due to the complicated design, the flaws rendered the car unable to move. However, Head Coordinator Jenna Hanning says that she is confident the car will be able to move at this year's competition in Toledo, Ohio.

For any interested parties, whether just wanting to know general information or to get information on when a specific team meets, please contact the Chem-E Car Coordinator Jenna Hanning at [email protected] She notes that electrical engineers are wanted in particular.




Appears in
2019 - Spring - Issue 4