Understanding Chemistry through Cars: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Understanding Chemistry through Cars

1st Edition

By Geoffrey M. Bowers, Ruth A. Bowers

CRC Press

261 pages | 10 Color Illus. | 71 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2014-11-03
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As the car anticipates its dance around the racetrack, the engine growls and pops, and all senses become immersed in the smell of exhaust vapors and the sounds of raw speed and excitement. As it turns out, these also are the sights, sounds, and smells of chemistry! The car is a great example of an everyday device with an abundance of chemistry hiding in plain sight. In fact, almost everything in a car can be described from a chemical perspective.

Understanding Chemistry through Cars guides novice chemists and car enthusiasts in learning basic chemical principles in an engaging context. It also supports upper-level chemists in synthesizing knowledge gained over a chemistry curriculum and seeing how it can manifest in the real world.

This book provides an overview of chemistry in relation to cars. Various topics are discussed including the ideal gas law, materials chemistry, thermochemistry, solution chemistry, mass transport, polymerization, light/matter interactions, and oxidation and reduction.

The book incorporates expected learning outcomes at the beginning of each section, detailed and easy-to-follow example problems, appendices reviewing basic chemical topics, suggestions on how to use the resource in upper-level courses. Ancillary materials, such as a Twitter account and an associated blog, allow readers to explore the latest in the world of car chemistry, ask questions, and interact directly with the authors and other experts.

Table of Contents

The Properties and Behavior of Gases

Kinetic Molecular Theory (KMT)

Tires, Pressure, and Pressure Units

Struts, Shock Absorbers, and Boyle’s and Charles’s Laws

Ideal Gases

Air Bags

Combustion, Energy, and The IC Engine

Fossil Fuel–Based Engines

The Combustion Reaction

Bonds and Bond Energy

Heat, Work, and Engine Efficiency

Power and the Fuel Source

Turbochargers and Superchargers

Biodiesel: Turning Waste Into Energy

Oxidation and Reduction

A Second Look at Combustion


The Catalytic Converter

Rust and Corrosion

Chrome Plating

Intermolecular Forces

Types of Intermolecular Forces





Managing Heat

Colligative Properties and Your Antifreeze

The Radiator

Refrigerants and Atmospheric Chemistry

Braking and Rotor Types

Materials Chemistry

Plastics and Polymers

Composite Materials



Fuel Cells: Power Plant of the Future?

Light and Your Car

Light and the Atom

Pigments and Color

Photochemical Degradation

Headlamps and LEDs

Appendix A: Matter and Measurement

Appendix B: Atoms and Elements

Appendix C: Organic Chemistry

Appendix D: An Introduction to the Car

Appendix E: Advanced Extension Exercises for Capstone Courses

About the Authors

Geoffrey M. Bowers is an associate professor of chemistry and an adjunct associate professor of materials science and engineering at Alfred University, New York, USA. He earned a BS in chemical engineering from Purdue University and a PhD in chemistry from Penn State University. Dr. Bowers’s educational philosophy emphasizes faculty-student co-learning opportunities; uses student-centered techniques and real-world examples in class whenever possible; and stresses authentic assessment, general problem solving, and teamwork skills. He has received several teaching and mentoring awards. Dr. Bowers is also an automotive enthusiast who loves working on cars, driving, and watching many types of racing.

Ruth Bowers is an adjunct instructor of chemistry at Alfred University, New York, USA. She developed and implemented curricula exploring the chemistry of consumer products as an honors seminar course and a regularly occurring high school summer camp. She earned a BS in chemistry from Purdue University and an M Ed in curriculum and instruction from Penn State University. Ruth has also been recognized as an outstanding teacher. She spent her childhood mere miles from the site of one of the first successful test drives of a gasoline-powered automobile in the United States.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Physics