Dairy and dragsters are two words you don't usually see next to each other, but you just did. A team of researchers has set a land speed record for one-liter engines, powered by industrial waste from cheese production.
The Aggie A-Salt Streamliner hit a top speed of 65.344 mph at the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association's 2012 World of Speed event. That's not a bad for a one-liter 22-horsepower engine running on cheese. To put it in context — there are lawnmowers with more powerful engines, but this baby got up to highway speeds.
It even performed just as well on the cheese fuel as it did with petroleum diesel, and it compared favorably with soybean-based biofuels.
The Aggie comes from a team of Utah State Univeristy, who worked more than a year to create a yeast biodiesel from the waste of industrial cheese production. What's great about this form of biodiesel is that the raw material already exists in abundance from existing operations, so it would have a low carbon footprint. Other alternative fuels, like ethanol, require the growth of corn to produce it that can have a large footprint in the end.
Understandably, members on the team were excited by the results and by the potential behind this fuel. USU undergrad biochemist and driver of the Aggie, Michael R. Morgan, said in a statement: "How many people get to drive a car they helped build with fuel they created from a living microorganism?"
The fuel produced by cheese-making byproducts is just one of the biofuels created by the university, and the hope is that the dragster's world record will get people excited about alternative fuels.
Before anyone starts chanting, "I feel the need — the need for cheese!", it's worth noting the process of refining the raw material is still a challenge and creating it in large enough quantities for use beyond research is still a long ways down the road.
The challenge is more in the refining process, but if it's more cheese waste they need, we can all start planning our diets on "extra cheese please!"