Potential expanded use of carbon fiber composites in cars is
taking another step forward with the creation of an advanced composites testing
laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The official name of the facility is the Automobili
Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Lab.
"This partnership is a win-win situation," says
Matthew O'Donnell, dean of the UW's College
of Engineering. "It
further establishes the Pacific Northwest as a
leader in composites research; it funds equipment for a UW engineering lab and
it provides students with valuable research experience that's directly tied to
area is rapidly becoming an American and global center for carbon composites
research and development because of the groundbreaking use of the material in
the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
of Washington already
operates an engineering certificate program in aircraft composite
structural analysis and design. The program was jointly developed by the
University of Washington Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Boeing
Learning, Training and Development group. Instructors include leading
professionals from the aircraft industry. Classes are taught at Boeing's Everett, WA
The collaboration between UW and Lamborghini goes back two
years. UW hosted Lamborghini engineers while UW faculty traveled to Italy to
conduct small classes on the fundamentals of composites design and
"Lamborghini remains committed to investing in its
future, and advancing carbon fiber composite technologies is the key to
achieving many of our goals," says Lamborghini President Stephan
The new composites lab is headed by Paolo Feraboli, who
joined the University's Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2005 as
Assistant Professor in Aerospace Structures and Materials. Feraboli has also
conducted research for Boeing and Toray, the primary composite supplier to the
Dreamliner. In addition, he worked on the Dreamliner technology integration
group under the direction of Dr. Al Miller.
"Composites are no longer the future, they are the
present of structural materials for anything that's high-performance, whether
it's aerospace or golf clubs or sports cars," says Feraboli.
"Monolithic materials like aluminum just won't cut it anymore."
Equipment for the new lab includes a lightning-strike
generator for simulated lightning strikes up to 100,000A; a drop tower for
inflicting damage from foreign objects; a pneumatic crash sled capable of
crushing full-size vehicle prototypes; and a high-speed video camera that can
take 82,000 frames per sec.
Lamborghini plans to boost power-to-weight ratios of its
cars by using composites to decrease the vehicles' overall mass, while also
lowering carbon dioxide emissions. Lamborghini also hopes the lab will help it
reduce development time for prototype parts.
One of the big tests for the lab will be its ability to
improve the economics of composite parts production for automobiles.
Lamborghini is one of the few auto companies to use composites for production
parts. In the U.S.,
design engineers usually only specify composite parts for showy parts on sports
cars, such as the adjustable rear wing in the 2008 Chrysler
LLC Viper ACR.
leading player in developing carbon
composites for cars is Plasan Carbon Composites of Bennington, VT.