A team of Utah State University researchers have set a land speed record in their class with a dragster powered by cheese! The Aggie A-Salt Streamliner runs on yeast biodiesel derived from the industrial waste of cheese production. However despite its dairy-based origins, the hot rod performed impressively at the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association’s 2012 World of Speed event and broke the land speed record for one-liter engine vehicles.

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During the speed trials, the Aggie vehicle clocked in at 65.344 miles per hour. While that may not sound that impressive, it is quite an achievement for a biofueled vehicle with a one-liter, two-cylinder engine. What is even more surprising is that the vehicle was able to run just as fast with its cheese-based biofuel as it was with petroleum diesel.

“How many people get to drive a car they helped build with fuel they created from a living microorganism?” asks USU undergrad biochemist and driver Michael R. Morgan in a statement.

Lance Seefeldt, professor in USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry added: “This is a real pole in the ground for Utah State. Setting the land speed record in this vehicle’s class [I/DS] on sustainable biofuel produced at USU underscores the outstanding quality of our school’s biochemistry and engineering programs and further validates the technology in this important sector.”

The Utah team have been working on their cheese-based fuel for more than a year to perfect the production using yeast and bacterial platforms, as well as developing fuel from carbon dioxide and the Sun using microalgae platforms.

“We’ve 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,” says Seefeldt, recipient of USU’s 2012 D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, the university’s top research honor. “The USU fuels are a renewable, low-footprint replacement for petroleum diesel and they don’t compete for food crops.”

“It really is an honor to help provide fuel for such a well-designed and engineered dragster,” McCurdy says. “We’re trying to get people excited about our biofuel research and I think setting a land speed record ought to get their attention.”

+ Utah State University

via Grist