Alternative fuels Power Team to Victory at CHEM-E-CAR Competition

Colleges from the U.S., Mexico and Canada use household materials and complex science in fun and challenging competition; University of Tulsa Takes Top Honors
November 4, 2013

Contact:  Danielle Gross
Phone:    (717) 214-2200

SAN FRANCISCO – The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) today announced that the University of Tulsa won first place in the 15th Annual Chem-E-Car competition, an international, collegiate competition featuring cars - ranging in size from shoeboxes to fire hydrants – that run on alternative fuels.  The winning car, called Oxidants Happen, runs on a 8-cell battery with magnesium and manganese dioxide.

The competition, held in conjunction with AIChE’s Annual Meeting, highlights the important role chemical engineers have played in the creation of today’s existing fuels and the role they will continue to play in developing alternative fuels in the future. The ultimate goal of the competition is to teach chemical engineering students – our future scientists -- to think creatively about alternative fuel technology.

“The Chem-E-Car competition provides a fantastic opportunity for chemical engineering students to work together as a team to think creatively and quickly – which will serve them well in a professional setting,” said Phillip R. Westmoreland, AIChE president. “Chemical engineers work to solve many of the complex issues facing our world – and perhaps someday, one of these power sources could have applications in the real world.”

In the competition, students create load-carrying cars using a variety of materials and fueling methods.  The designs showcase the teams’ creativity, with cars made of legos, toy cars, and water bottles. Teams qualify by placing at regional competitions throughout the year.

The student engineers do not know the size and weight of the load their car has to carry or the distance it must travel until the competition begins.  The students then scramble to calculate how to get their car as close to the distance goal as possible.  This year, the cars had to carry 250 milliliters of water for 17.5 meters, and the University of Tulsa team was 6 centimeters from the finish line, and took the $2,000 first place prize.

Safety is at the forefront of the competition. Schools must take safety training and take special precautions or face disqualification.

The second place award went to the City College of New York. The University of Houston placed third and also was the most consistent performing car in the competition. The Inherent Safety in Design Award (SACHE) went to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.The Golden Tire Award, which is the most innovative design as chosen by the Chem-E-Car teams, went to the University of Utah.

Images of the cars may be obtained by contacting Danielle Gross at 717.418.9001 or

About AIChE: AIChE is a professional society of more than 45,000 chemical engineers in 100 countries. Its members work in corporations, universities and government using their knowledge of chemical processes to develop safe and useful products for the benefit of society.

Through its varied programs, AIChE continues to be a focal point for information exchange on the frontier of chemical engineering research in such areas as nanotechnology, sustainability, hydrogen fuels, biological and environmental engineering, and chemical plant safety and security. More information about AIChE is available at