Utah State University Sets Landspeed Record for Biofuel Vehicles

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University builds record-breaking car using green fuel.

 

A Utah-made biofuel streamliner automobile set the land speed record in the small-engine class petroleum-fuel diesel streamliner division in the World of Speed event held at the Bonneville Salt Flats on Sept. 10. Its top speed was 64.4 miles per hour, the fastest any car has traveled using only biofuel, according to the university's newspaper, The USU Statesman.

The vehicle project started six years ago, when the USU colleges of Engineering, Science, and Agriculture came together and decided to tackle an alternative fuel source to help the transportation sector get away from foreign oil, according to Lance Seefeldt, a professor in the biochemistry department. The team went to the flats hoping to learn how to improve the car they had finished building only two days before. Instead, they ended up setting a world record.

The scaled-up production model was about 1000 times larger than the first small vial of fuel they were able to make after so many years of research. “I remember the first vial and how excited everyone was,” Seedfeldt said. They were surprised at how much attention they got when they lined up with the other cars. “Our car had a consistent crowd around it,” said Mike Morgan, the driver of the streamliner and a senior majoring in biochemistry. Something else worth noting is how little the build cost. Most of the materials were either volunteered by team members or donated by local businesses. The car is unusual in that it was custom-made, and the engine and transmission are exposed in the back of the chassis, behind the driver. It also gives off a peculiar smell. “They announced over the PA that it smelled like someone was baking bread,” Morgan said. “The fuel made out of yeast has a really distinct smell.” Next year the team wants to go back do make more attempts using biofuels made with algae and bacteria. As the team further develops the streamliner, they want to explore using fuels that can be made commercially. The long-term goal is to find a way to get their results to help replace global dependence on fossil fuels.

The biofuel is especially amazing because it leaves a lower carbon footprint than diesel, and is made by adding yeast to leftover waste from producing cheese. The yeast produces a simplified molecule used in the chemistry to create biofuel. So they took a cheap waste product that’s essentially free, and made it into the resource that makes the world move. Just to imagine stepping outside and smelling baking bread sounds like the greenest future imaginable. And at the speed they’re going, we may just get to see it.

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