A collaboration between Automobili Lamborghini and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new MOF-based material that will serve as the foundation for a new generation of supercapacitors. The developers have filed for a patent; Automobili Lamborghini is a co-author.
Further research will explore additional optimization of the properties of the material, and its production on an increasingly larger scale.
The collaboration began three years ago when Automobili Lamborghini joined the MIT-Italy Program, and took a further step forward in 2017 with the launch of two research projects, one with Professor Mircea Dincă (MIT - Department of Chemistry), and the other with Professor John Anastasios Hart (MIT - Department of Mechanical Engineering), focused on battery materials.
More broadly, this result is part of the shift towards electric vehicles technology Automobili Lamborghini undertook in 2017 with the presentation of the Terzo Millennio, and most recently with the Sián hybrid super sports car, unveiled at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The Sián combines a 785 hp V12 with a 34 hp 48V e-motor incorporated into the gearbox to provide immediate response and improved performance—the first time in any low-voltage hybrid that a direct connection has been made between electric motor and wheels. The e-motor also supports low-speed maneuvers such as reversing and parking with electric power.
Rather than a lithium-ion battery, the Sián uses supercapacitors—a technology pioneered originally in the Lamborghini Aventador but significantly enhanced to store ten times the power. The Sián energy storage is three times more powerful than a battery of the same weight and three times lighter than a battery producing the same power. Located in the bulkhead between cockpit and engine it ensures perfect weight distribution.
The electric system with the supercapacitor and e-motor weighs only 34 kg, thus it delivers a remarkable weight-to-power ratio of 1.0 kg/hp. Symmetric power flow ensures the same efficiency in both charging and discharging cycles—the most lightweight and efficient hybrid solution.
The new patented material was synthesized by Professor Mircea Dincă’s team in the laboratories of MIT’s Chemistry Department with the support of Automobili Lamborghini’s Concept Development Department, and it is based on the Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) concept.
At MIT, the Dincă Lab focuses on the synthesis and characterization of new inorganic and organic materials for applications in small molecule transformations (e.g. CO2 and O2 reduction, and natural gas conversion), energy conversion and storage, sensing, gas separation, and biotechnology.
MOFs have traditionally been used for gas storage and separation; much less attention has been devoted to their electronic properties. The Dincă Lab researchers are synthesizing new metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that exhibit good charge mobility and conductivity.
The molecular structure of the family of materials developed with Lamborghini makes it suited for producing electrodes for high-performance supercapacitors of the future, because it maximizes the specific surface area, i.e. the amount of surface area exposed to electric charge in relation to the mass and volume of the sample.
The stated goal of the research is to improve the energy density: the patent filed today promises to increase this density by up to 100% compared to the technology currently on the market.
The research team began by investigating doubling the capacity made possible by new technology. The current patent, which is the result of two years’ work, represents significant progress but its potential is much greater, even when compared to the supercapacitors used on the Lamborghini Sián, which are at the cutting edge of conventional technology in this field.
Battery materials. A second, three-year collaboration with Professor John Anastasios Hart team in the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department aims to establish new design principles for high-performance battery materials that can be integrated into the vehicle structure.
The project will result in battery prototypes that provide a combination of energy storage performance, geometric versatility, and structural integrity that is critical to the performance targets set by the Lamborghini Terzo Millennio.
In parallel with the laboratory work, the partnership with the MIT-Italy program has given two MIT students the chance to gain work experience at Automobili Lamborghini, by working on the development of the composites’ specifications and the mathematical modelling of the supercapacitors’ conducting properties. Given these successful outcomes, Automobili Lamborghini has decided to extend its collaboration with the MIT-Italy program until the end of the coming year.