A car design by students from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) won this year at the Chem-E-Car Competition held November in San Francisco, California. The car used a vanadium redox flow battery, allowing stable power output, all thanks to the design of Hee-Tak Kim, KAIST professor.

The design, utilising iodine clock reactions to induce chemical reactions to control the car, finished best coming within 11cm of the target line. Georgia Tech’s car reached the finish line by 13cm and New Jersey Institute of Technology’s car by 14cm.

The competition requires chemical engineering students to design small-scale automobiles (20cm x 30cm x 40cm) that operate chemically, as well as describe research used and drive their car a fixed distance down a wedge-shaped course to show the car’s capabilities. In addition to driving a specified 15m -30m distance, competing cars must hold a 0-500ml payload of water.

Organisers tell participants the exact distance and amount of payloads an hour before the competition begins. Winners are chosen based on their finishing time and how close their car reaches the finish line. Thus, students must show coordination of chemical reactions to win.

This year's winning design was by KAIST students Young-Hyun Cha, Jin-Sol Shin, Dae-Seok Oh, and Wan-Tae Kim. Their adviser was Professor Doh Chang Lee of the institute's chemical and biomolecular engineering department.

The Chem-E-Car is an annual worldwide college competition for students majoring in chemical engineering. It is hosted by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), an organisation for chemical engineering professionals, with 50,000 members from over 100 countries.

A total of 41 university teams including Carnegie Mellon University and Purdue University participated in this year’s competition.