USU undergraduate biochemistry student Michael R. Morgan stands beside the "Aggie A-Salt Streamliner," a USU-built race car fueled with USU-developed renewable biofuel. Morgan drove the vehicle to a land speed record Sept. 10, 2012 on the Bonneville Salt Flats during the "World of Speed" competition.

Posted September 11, 2012

A team of USU faculty and students from the Colleges of Science, Engineering and Agriculture set the land speed record Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 using a car built by USU students and running renewable biodiesel produced by the students at the World of Speed event held at the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway in Utah.

The team members in the College of Science and Agriculture, led by Professor Lance Seefeldt from the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and Prof. Bruce Bugbee from the Plants, Soils, and Climate Department, have been working to perfect the production of sustainable biodiesel derived from industrial waste using yeast and bacterial platforms and from CO2 and sun using microalgae platforms. The team has recently succeeded in producing quantities of fuels from all of these sources that have superior properties in test engines, comparing favorably to biodiesel produced from soybeans. The USU fuels are a renewable, low footprint replacement for petroleum diesel, and do not compete for food crops.

Team members in the College of Engineering, led by Professor Byard Wood, Head of the Mechanical, Aerospace, and Engineering Department, have been testing the USU biodiesel in test engines, finding excellent horsepower and fuel emissions. Earlier this summer, the team, led by Michael R. Morgan, the director of the Student Prototype Laboratory, initiated building a diesel land streamliner race car to compete in the World of Speed event held each year at Bonneville to test the USU biofuels. With assistance from Utah Chassis and Mott Motorsports, the USU team completed production of the streamliner with a small (1 L) two cylinder diesel engine in late August 2012.

The team traveled to the Bonneville Salt Flats Sept. 7 with their new car and biofuels in hand. During the four-day event, the car, driven by Morgan, an undergraduate biochemistry major at USU, completed two passes on the Salt Flats course in the diesel streamliner (subclass I) setting the land speed record in the class. A third run was completed using the USU biodiesel from yeast, matching the winning speed completed earlier in the day with petroleum diesel. The success with the car setting the speed record on USU biofuels validates the car and fuels being produced.

The team is already planning to surpass their record at next year’s event, with teams of USU students working during the coming year on engine improvements, a more aerodynamic body, and new biofuels made from microalgae and yeast.

Lance Seefeldt
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Utah State University
Logan UT 84322
Ph. 435-797-3964
fax. 435-797-3390