An individual honor and a team honor were earned by the Iowa State student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in the group’s recent trip to the Mid-America Student Regional Conference hosted at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) junior Zoe Ostrowski took first place in the research poster competition for her project titled “Designing Unique Mechanical Gradient Patterns in Alginate Hydrogels.” She works in the lab of CBE associate professor Ian Schneider.
The two Chem-E-Car teams, ”ISU Bridge” and “Ames Tap Water,” netted fourth and fifth place, respectively, in that competition; however, ISU Bridge walked away with a prestigious technology award.
That vehicle was the only one in the competition to utilize a “pressure” system for power — a reaction between citric acid and sodium bicarbonate to produce pressurized carbon dioxide, which was fed into an air motor used to propel the car. It used friction to stop, so the distance traveled in the competition was entirely controlled by the amount of carbon dioxide produced in the reaction. There are many hazards inherent to using high pressures. The team’s consideration and mitigation of the hazards resulted in being presented with the SAChE (Safety and Chemical Engineering Education) Safety Award, which is given to the car at the competition that best applies the principles of chemical process safety to the competition.
The Ames Tap Water car used thermoelectric plates to generate electricity and power a motor. This was accomplished using dry ice on one side of the plates and a reaction of hydrogen peroxide and yeast on the other side, generating a large temperature difference that induced a charge in the plates and produced electricity. Their stopping mechanism was an iodine clock reaction.
As always, social events and networking were also part of the conference experience. The event, held each year at a regional university, brings together a number of student chapters from participating Midwestern universities.