CarTech Report: Lamborghini wants to try and make engines with carbon fiber connecting rods

Being a car enthusiast-based website, I’d hope you, as the reader, know the basics about how an internal combustion engine works and what many of the key components are and what they do. So let’s talk about connecting rods, or the metal shaped bars that act specifically as levers to turn the crankshaft, since they are connected in between the shaft and the piston heads. Without connecting rods, pistons can’t drive the crankshaft, so they’re about as important to the car as air is to humans.

The issue with connecting rods however these days is that they need to be strong, which implies that they need to be made of dense metals that also weight quite a bit. But these requirements are the necessary evils in order for an engine to withstand the forces acted upon them. So ultimately, it’s hard to imagine connecting rods any other way when compared to how they’re made and used today in modern cars, especially when the basic designs of them have yet to really change.

But Lamborghini supposedly claims they might have the answer, thanks to judicious and special use of carbon fiber–a material that’s supposed to be stiffer and stronger than traditional metals, while weighing nearly a fraction compared to standard metals and plastics.

You might be able to see where this is going.

Lamborghini’s solution: connecting rods made from carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber has been with us for decades and it was only fairly recently that automakers decided to use the material more frequently as manufacturing costs shrunk and infrastructure to create carbon fiber increased. But CF has only been used on integral body and chassis parts, given how that’s a much easier and straight forward application of the material. With connecting rods, strength isn’t the only factor as heat is a huge issue with internal combustion engines. Part of the reason why engines are made primarily of metals is their ability to dissipate and withstand constant heat cycles.

With this plan to create carbon fiber connecting rods, Lamborghini teamed up with its own Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, to come up with these rods, using carbon fiber, along with special mixtures of resins and molding them under lots of heat and pressure, similar to the process of casting and forging metals and alloys.

The forged rods are created within three minutes using their processes. They are then finalized by being hand-molded with an additional carbon matting, that’s then baked onto the forged rods for up to 12 hours.

While the tech is still being developed, Lamborghini clearly knows their way with carbon fiber as their 2010 Sesto Elemento proved what they company’s capable of, using the material. For the record, the Sesto Elemento comprised of around 80 percent carbon fiber materials.

Altogether, it will be interesting to see how this technology moves forward as carbon fiber connecting rods could have a lot of performance potential by reducing the amount of rotational weight within the moving parts of an engine. This can translate into significantly improved throttle response times and monumental redlines. And for a performance car like a Lamborghini, this sorta thing matters.

– By: Chris Chin

Source: AutomotiveNews


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