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Lamborghini: research on carbon materials on board the ISS International Space Station

The joint research activity on advanced carbon fiber composite materials, started two years ago by Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute, reaches an important turning point. Starting from November 2 planned the launch of the carrier Northrop Grumman Antares from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, which will bring on board the International Space Station (ISS) a set of composite material samples made by Lamborghini.

The launch is part of a test campaign sponsored by ISS U.S. National Laboratory and supervised by the Houston Methodist Research Institute. It is aimed at analyzing the response of five different composite materials produced by Lamborghini to the extreme stresses induced by the space environment, in view of future applications on models of the House of SantAgata Bolognese and in the medical field.

The mission, to which Lamborghini provides his collaboration free of charge, takes place two years later with an agreement that has enabled the launch of a joint research project on the study of the biocompatibility of composite materials to verify their possible use in prosthetic implants, but also in subcutaneous devices, exploiting their peculiar properties of lightness, radio transparency and radio compatibility.

Lamborghini: research on carbon materials on board the ISS International Space StationACLSD – Tension and Compression Test Machine

The launch on the ISS orbital station brings the colors of the tricolor: the Italian contribution represented not only by Lamborghini, but also by Dr. Alessandro Grattoni, Chairman of the Nanomedicine Department of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, and by astronaut Luca Parmitano who, on his second presence on board the ISS, he just became commander, an absolute "first" for Italy.

In detail, the 5 carbon fiber samples selected for the experiment exploit some of the most innovative technologies currently available. These are the fruit of the company's know-how in this field and in particular of the research and development activity of the Composites Development Department and its ACLSD laboratory (Advanced Composites and Lightweight Structures Development) at the SantAgata Bolognese site, active for years in the field of high performance composites.

Lamborghini: research on carbon materials on board the ISS International Space StationACLSD printer

Of particular interest not only for the biomedical and automotive sector is the continuous fiber 3D printed composite, which makes it possible to combine the extreme flexibility of "additive manufacturing" with high-level mechanical performances, equal to those of a good aluminum for uses structural.

An important role in the experiment also covered by discontinuous-fiber carbon composites, a technology in which the company has pioneered since the launch of the limited-edition "Sesto Elemento" of 2010 and whose use to date is a consolidated reality on the whole product range of the House of SantAgata Bolognese.

Finally, the experimental batch also includes samples in pre-impregnated epoxy resin and autoclaved polymer, a traditional technology but still at the top in terms of mechanical characteristics.

The materials, on board the ISS for a duration of six months, will be subjected not only to extreme thermal excursion cycles with peaks from -40 to +200 degrees centigrade, but also to massive doses of ultraviolet radiation, gamma rays and the flow of atomic oxygen caused by ionization, by solar radiation, of the highest and most rarefied layers of the atmospheric atmosphere.

At the end of the mission period, the samples returned to the earth will be finally subjected to joint tests by Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute in order to quantify the qualitative degradation both in terms of chemical and physical properties and mechanical properties. For Lamborghini, in particular, the data obtained will be valuable in view of an even more extensive use of advanced composites on board their cars.