Call it “The little engine that curd.” Students at Utah State University have broken a land speed record in a car fueled by the waste that remains from cheese making.
The student built car, known as the Aggie A-Salt Streamliner, was running on a student-derived biofuel made from yeast and cheese waste when it set the land speed record at 64.396 mph for a diesel-powered, one-liter, two-cylinder vehicle at the World of Speed event held at the Bonneville Salt Flats earlier this month.
It’s the first car in its class to break a land speed record while solely powered by biofuel. Previous records have been set by cars running on a mixture of biofuels and conventional diesel.
The fuel was created by feeding the byproducts of cheese production to yeast, which yields a result that can be made into a biofuel that has a lower carbon footprint than conventional diesel. It’s one of three biofuels created in the lab of USU professor Lance Seefeldt, though only the cheese-based fuel was used at Bonneville.
“The USU fuels are a renewable, low-footprint replacement for petroleum diesel and they don’t compete for food crops,” Seefeldt said. By setting a land speed record, the researchers said they hope to draw more attention to the benefits of new kinds of biofuels.
The whole project was a team effort across the university: The College of Engineering was responsible for building the lightweight and efficient streamliner, while researchers in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and Plants, Soils, and Climate Department worked for the past six months to create the unique fuel.
“It’s one thing to produce a small amount in the lab and discuss how it will work in theory. It’s another to actually put it in a dragster, while everyone watches it take off,” said Alex McCurdy, a third year doctoral student at USU who helped develop the fuel.
According to USU’s student newspaper, the Statesman, a crowd gathered to watch the car’s trial run, and not just because they appreciated the science behind it.
“They announced over the PA that it smelled like someone was baking bread,” Mike Morgan, the undergraduate biochemistry student who drove the car on its run, told the newspaper. “The fuel made out of yeast has a really distinct smell.”