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Researchers to test-drive Lamborghini’s composite materials in space

Carbon fibre samples will be sent to the International space station for testing

Houston Methodist researchers are studying Italian sports car giant Lamborghini’s carbon fibre materials in space. The research payload, scheduled to launch no earlier than Nov. 2 to the International Space Station (ISS), is part of a collaborative project involving Houston Methodist Research Institute, Lamborghini and the ISS U.S. National Laboratory (ISS National Lab).

The 6-month study aboard the International space station will evaluate the ability of Lamborghini’s carbon fibre materials to withstand temperature fluctuations, radiation exposure (including ultraviolet and linear energy transfer), vacuum and atomic oxygen exposure.

Environmental conditions at low-Earth orbit allow us to evaluate the properties and robustness of the carbon fibre materials under extreme conditions. This is a unique environment to learn more about their properties and characteristics, in the hope of one-day developing technologies and devices that could be used on Earth and in space. Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., Chair of the department of nano-medicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute

Grattoni heads the Centre for Space Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute and began sending select research projects to the International space station in 2015. The centre’s focus is on nanotechnology-based therapeutics, biomedical devices for precision medicine, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. The Lamborghini project is the fourth of 10 experiments from Grattoni’s lab scheduled for the ISS over the next several years.

Nano-medicine researchers from Houston Methodist are working with Lamborghini to test carbon fibre samples, such as the three pictured here, on the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit environmental conditions.

For the past 12 years, Grattoni’s work has focused on implantable nanochannel platforms to control the delivery of therapies for a variety of chronic medical needs, including HIV-prevention, muscle atrophy, obesity and cancer.

Grattoni is already collaborating with Lamborghini on another project to study the biocompatibility of the automaker’s proprietary carbon fibre composites for implantable devices. Understanding the durability of Lamborghini’s proprietary material in accelerated and extreme environmental conditions in space could help future research efforts for biomedical technologies beyond drug-delivery devices, such as in prostheses and in dental and orthopaedic implants.

Compared to conventional materials, Lamborghini’s carbon fibre composites could prove to be more durable at a fraction of the weight. If this study shows mechanical strength and robustness, I could see the possibility of additional applications within the aerospace industry.

Lamborghini’s Advanced Composite Lightweight Structures Department of Research & Development is the carmaker’s unit focused on the research and production of carbon fibre composite materials in their vehicles.

The ISS National Lab works in a cooperative agreement with NASA to launch research investigations to the orbiting laboratory that has the capacity to benefit life on Earth through space-based inquiry. Future Houston Methodist experiments scheduled for launch to the ISS include an implantable nanochannel drug-delivery device that will be remotely controlled on Earth, as well as a platform for the controlled delivery of therapeutics for osteoporosis prevention and treatment.

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Images via Houston Methodist
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