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Lamborghini Advancing the Research in Structural Materials

The Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce to be placed on exhibit at the forthcoming 2009 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress is a world-class example of luxury sports car engineering, featuring advanced aerodynamics and new 670-horsepower engine that achieves a top speed of 212 miles per hour.

Among other innovations, the outer body panels and other structural components of the SuperVeloce are constructed with lightweight carbon-fiber composites, which provide an increased power-to-weight ratio so essential in high-performance cars.

Carbon-based composites also are extremely durable, and allow designers to shape and form the body components that give the SuperVeloce its distinctive appearance and appeal.

Lamborghini’s work in carbon-fiber composites will be the subject of a presentation to be held on Nov. 17, beginning at 9:45 a.m., at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., site of the ASME Congress.

Common in the sporting goods and aerospace industries, carbon-fiber composites have been used in the production of the Murcielago since 2001. To create carbon-fiber materials, engineers use sheets of fibers which are pre-impregnated with partially solidified polymer resin.

The stack is then heated and pressurized under vacuum in an oven called an autoclave, which renders a solid structure featuring a distinct shape. The part is assembled onto a tubular steel frame of the vehicle with fasteners or high-strength adhesives.

Because current carbon-fiber material processing is labor-intensive, researchers at the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory at the University of Washington have begun experimenting with “out-of-autoclave” methodologies.

“Our focus is on applying a liquid-resin infusion process that cures the composite materials without the need for high amounts of heat and pressurization,” said Paolo Feraboli, director of the Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory and presenter in the session at the 2009 ASME Congress. “Out-of-autoclave is a great time and cost saver, and we are seeing if the process renders carbon-fiber material properties that are an improvement over those of today.”

According to Feraboli, who also is a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington, Lamborghini is investigating the application of carbon-fiber composites in other vehicle components besides outer body panels. For example, the steel frame of the SuperVeloce can be redesigned with carbon-fiber composites mixed with aluminum for improved weight characteristics.

The Boeing Company, Federal Aviation Administration, and other government and industrial organizations partner with the Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory on advanced research and experimentation. Other research activity carried out there on behalf of Lamborghini involves nondestructive evaluation and testing of materials and crashworthiness studies on vehicles.

“There are complexities and costs associated with the crash-testing of composite structures,” said Feraboli. “Borrowing from the aerospace industry, we have begun to experiment with a building block approach based on predictive analysis and margin-of-safety calculations.”

Carbon-Fiber Composites Research and Development at Automobili Lamborghini, the general session at the 2009 ASME Congress, will be held in the North Hemisphere Ballroom.

The 2009 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress will feature nearly 350 technical sessions covering advancements in aerospace technology, manufacturing, micro devices, transportation, biotechnology, and other disciplines. The Society’s largest technical conference, the Congress will bring together engineers, scientists and other professionals from around the world. For event information, visit

About ASME
ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.

John Varrasi | Newswise Science News
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