Lamborghini opens composites lab at University of Washington

Lamborghini composites experts will also speak at the upcoming CompositesWorld Carbon Fiber 2009 conference, Dec. 9-11 in San Diego, Calif.

The University of Washington (UW, Seattle, Wash., USA) on Oct. 6 announced a partnership between it and the Italian sports-car company Automobili Lamborghini, creating UW's Automobili Lamborghini Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory. The UW is the first university in the country to collaborate with Lamborghini. The company has committed to provide substantial 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."

The UW and Lamborghini have worked closely during the past two years. The UW lab has hosted Lamborghini engineers for month-long periods; UW faculty have traveled to Italy to conduct small classes on the fundamentals of composites design and certification; and the university has sent engineering graduate students for internships at Lamborghini's Bologna headquarters.

"Lamborghini remains committed to investing in its future, and advancing carbon fiber 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 fiber composites in the Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce 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.

To learn more about Lamborghini's use of carbon fiber composites, representatives of the company will be speaking at CompositesWorld's Carbon fiber 2009 conference, Dec. 9-11, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, San Diego, Calif., USA.

The talk will be given in two parts, the first by Maurizio Reggiani, VP and CTO of Automobili Lamborghini SpA, based in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy, and will be an overview of past, present and future composites use at Lamborghini. The second part will be given by Paolo Feraboli, PhD, assistant professor of Aircraft Materials and Structures and Director, Automobili Lamborhinia Advanced Composite Structures Lab (University of Washington), and will more specifically focus on the activities of joint research and development between Lamborghini, Boeing and the University of Washington in the area of composites crashworthiness, both testing and analysis, as well as some manufacturing and materials considerations. Lamborghini is bringing to the conference one of its vehicles that features substantial use of carbon fiber.

For more information on Carbon Fiber 2009, visit