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US University Form Composite Partnership with Lamborghini

  • Friday, 9th October 2009
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

A partnership between the University of Washington and the Italian sports-car company Automobili Lamborghini has now been formalised, focussing on the advancement of composite materials. This week the presidents of each organisation were in attendance at the naming ceremony of the UW’s Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory.

The UW is the first American university to collaborate with Lamborghini, which has committed to provide funding for lab equipment and support for UW undergraduate and graduate students.

“”This partnership is a win-win situation,”” said 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 real-world applications.””

“”Lamborghini remains committed to investing in its future, and advancing carbon fibre composite technologies is the key to achieving many of our goals,”” said Lamborghini president Stephan Winkelmann, who attended the ceremony. “”The UW and its collaborations have enabled Automobili Lamborghini to proceed with confidence in the development of innovative, composite-intensive structures.””

“”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,”” said lab director Paolo Feraboli, a UW assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics. “”Monolithic materials like aluminum just won’t cut it anymore.””

Feraboli, a native of Italy, earned his undergraduate degree in Bologna and worked at Lamborghini on composite materials in 2001 and 2002. He continued a relationship with Lamborghini while establishing the UW’s Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory in 2007.

The lab’s equipment includes a lightning-strike generator for simulated lightning strikes up to 100,000 amps; 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 second. Research focuses on short-term, industry-driven testing of new materials in scenarios such as bird strike, lightning strike or, in this case, crashes.

Lamborghini uses carbon fibre in cars such as the The Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce, which incorporates carbon composites in its floor, transmission tunnel and outer skin, for a total of roughly one third composite materials by weight. Lamborghini says it plans to increase power-to-weight ratios of its cars by using composites to decrease the vehicles’ overall mass, which also lowers carbon dioxide emissions.

“”Partnerships between the UW and industry leaders like Lamborghini give our students the advantage of working on real-world problems,”” said UW President Mark Emmert. “”We are excited that UW researchers and Lamborghini engineers will be collaborating to bring innovative materials to the automobile industry.””

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