Blue Sky Solar Racing unveils new solar-powered race car

Viridian will compete in race of over 3000 kilometres across Australia

Blue Sky Solar Racing unveils new solar-powered race car

A team of U of T Engineering undergraduate students named Blue Sky Solar Racing unveiled Viridian, the 10th generation of its solar-powered race car, in its first public unveiling event on June 24.

For over 22 years, different compositions of the team designed, built, and raced solar-powered cars, creating a new generation every two years.

This year, Blue Sky Solar Racing completed the design and manufacture of Generation X. The vehicle was showcased to the public for the first time at Myhal Centre Auditorium.

Race car’s manufacture celebrated by keynote speakers

The buzzing audience included team alumni, sponsors, and staff from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Around 200 guests attended in total.

Following an introduction by Managing Director Hubaab K. Hussain, two professors delivered remarks onstage.

Professor Amy Bilton, the Director of the Centre of Global Engineering, discussed her experiences as an alumna of Blue Sky Solar Racing. She reflected on her involvement as the Aerodynamics Team Lead in 2006, and noted that the team puts in an incredible amount of effort each year.

“[The team members] are basically doing more than a full-time job at the same time as they are doing a full load of engineering courses,” she said.

Professor Cristopher Yip, the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, also spoke at the event, and congratulated the team on their successful manufacture of Generation X.

The unveiling of Viridian onstage

In a wave of applause, team members pulled back the curtain to reveal their feat of design.

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Viridian is a boat-shaped solar-powered race car with a length of approximately three metres. The hood of the vehicle is covered with an array of solar panels. A glass hemisphere swells from the middle of the car, serving as the windshield.

In an interview with The Varsity, Hussain said that Viridian can reach a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour according to previous testing.

He said that the team continues to work on testing and characterizing the car ⁠— in addition to getting some much-needed sleep. This will be in preparation for racing Viridian in the international Bridgestone World Solar Challenge this autumn.

Racing 3000 kilometres in Australia

Viridian’s race will be the seventh time that the team’s vehicle will make the cross-continental trip from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia. Travelling north to south of the country, Viridian will race a course of 3000 kilometres.

The competition is set to begin in October. Before then, the team will repeatedly test the car to get as much characterized information about its performance as possible. Details such as its power consumption at certain speeds, as well as how certain environmental conditions affect Viridian’s performance, are especially valuable.

Potential commercial applications

Outside of racing competitions, solar-powered cars have an immense commercial potential. Hussain highlighted Lightyear, a start-up electric car manufacturer in the Netherlands.

The European company released their first solar-powered electric car on the same day as Blue Sky Solar Racing’s unveiling event. Its new car, named Lightyear One, is set to be released on the market soon, with a listed price of €149,000 in the Netherlands, roughly equivalent to 218,400 CAD.

In addition to developing solar-powered race cars, Hussain said that Blue Sky Solar Racing also aims to provide opportunities to enrich the experiences of undergraduates.

“The [goal] of the [Blue Sky Solar Racing],” said Hussain, “is to provide students with an opportunity to grow and develop outside of the classroom, as well as promote sustainable technology.”

U of T student wins Spanish Carbon Group prize for emissions research

Anton Sediako awarded for novel application of microscopy in carbon combustion studies

U of T student wins Spanish Carbon Group prize for emissions research

Anton Sediako, a PhD candidate in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, won best poster at a 2018 conference in Madrid, Spain for his research in emissions reduction. The World Conference on Carbon, held in July by the Spanish Carbon Group, recognizes advances in carbon science and its applications.

Sediako’s poster presents a novel technique for studying carbon particulate matter, a harmful by-product of fossil fuel combustion. Supervised by Professor Murray Thomson, his research explores the formation of particulate matter, its reactions with other substances, and its oxidation — how carbon loses electrons to form a compound with oxygen.

Sediako entered Thomson’s Combustion Research Lab in 2014 and began investigating how current fuel types may be modified to produce fewer particulate matter pollutants. However, while studying fuel chemistry, he and his co-authors discovered that high-resolution electron microscopy could be used to observe combustion reactions directly in the lab.

Through a collaboration with technology firm Hitachi High-Technologies, Sediako and his lab developed the new technique to visualize nanoscale combustion reactions.

The researchers focused on developing substrates — surfaces necessary to take microscopic measurements — appropriate for studying how carbon combusts, and how they might develop cleaner combustion techniques.

Challenges with developing this imaging technique included accumulating the evidence necessary to garner acceptance from the wider academic community.

“The biggest challenge by far has been bringing this [microscopy] technique to a whole new field and proving to them that it’s a valid technique,” explained Sediako in an interview with The Varsity.

“[Combustion is] not a new field… You don’t really have to prove that your thermocouple works the way it should work because it’s a thermocouple — it’s been used before,” said Sediako, giving an example of an established technique.

A thermocouple is a device that measures temperature, and is often used in fuel and combustion experiments.

Sediako’s microscopy technique is novel, and consequently unfamiliar to many long-time academics in carbon combustion research. He therefore had to anticipate a wide range of potential problems and concerns about the new technique, which could be raised by current academics in the field.

Sediako had to convincingly demonstrate that his technique produced imagery that truly represented what occurs during carbon combustion.

“With the new technique,” said Sediako, “you really have to iron out all the potential flaws and own them.”

Sediako believes communication skills — like being able to present the technique in an accessible manner to those with a limited background in microscopy — were essential in establishing the new technique.

Sediako and his research group are now focusing on applying this technique to advance both basic and applied research in carbon combustion.

In a collaboration with Pennsylvania State University, the researchers are designing nanocatalysts to consume carbon to “eat the harmful product and prevent [its] release into the environment.”

They also plan to apply the technique directly to automobile engine design, improving battery materials, and develop better filtration methods for carbon emissions.