• May 10, 2011
Florida engineer Matti Holtzberg has spent the last 40 years trying to perfect and implement a way of building useable engine blocks from composite plastics. With the advent of carbon fiber and its subsequent permeation of all things high-performance, Holtzberg decided to apply the technology to his composite engine idea.
Armed with a vast base of research and immense skill, Holtzberg retooled his operation to mold carbon composite engine blocks, with an eye toward selling them to racing teams. Holtzberg's blocks are based on the venerable 2.0-liter Duratec mill that sees duty in the Ford Focus.

Holtzberg's carbon-fiber block has the potential to save more than 20 pounds over the aluminum equivalent, but at an enormous cost. There's no definite word on pricing just yet, but it should be at least $2,500 per pound saved, which pretty well limits the technology to race teams... for now.

The technology could make huge leaps forward in weight saving and fuel economy should it ever hit the streets, but don't figure on that happening for quite a while.


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  • 29 Comments
      karlinsandiego
      • 3 Years Ago
      Um. sounds like a crap idea. Heaviest parts of an aluminum production engine? Cast Iron (or rarely forged steel) crankshaft, cast iron camshafts, cast iron con rods. Biggest enemy in reciprocal inertia are pistons and conrods, with crank/flywheel rotational inertia in close proximity. Why is dropping 20 more pounds with a different block critical? Try lifting a stripped aluminum block. It's already featherweight. Something tells me the only way this become important if thermodynamics make it a gain, or if variable compression a la Saab's model become more simple to implement with it. Frankly block's biggest complexities involve oil passages meant to constantly circulate lube, and water jackets to stop big heat differential from destroying everything. Now tell me you're building a 4 valve/cyl head with variable valve timing out of cf and I'm impressed but still baffled why it mattered. Maybe this is what's needed for Jetson cars, but it's not worth exploring when cars weigh 3,300 lbs. because they gained weight everywhere else.
        powercat
        • 3 Years Ago
        @karlinsandiego
        The engine would be just another stepping stone in losing weight, just like the monocoques in F1 ( recently seen in the new lambo) and even carbon fiber a-arms in F1. Almost everything new for automobiles does start in racing first and trickles down. If everything in production cars keeps moving towards weight loss fuel economy will go up and cars are even safer. I also like the comment a few posts down " show me a battery that I can recharge as fast as I can refill a gas tank."
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      I found this story the other day and honestly it makes perfect sense to drop the iron or aluminum in engine blocks and go plastic. Plastics have come a long way and with the proper use of sleeves, I don't see many big durability/strength issues that couldn't be solved eventually.
        Jim
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        the one thing that would concern me isn't the wear surfaces (since as you say they'd be sleeves and embedded bearings anyway) but local areas of high stress such as the threaded bosses for the cylinder head bolts and main bearing caps. I'd be interested in knowing what kind of inserts could be used to prevent them being pulled out of the block material when torquing down.
          Serge
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jim
          I would put a washer-and-nut on the other side (obviously something more elegant than stuff from HD)... engines would have to be redesigned with plastics in mind anyway, so that shouldn't be too hard to work into the new designs.
      tarheel91
      • 3 Years Ago
      Is this really carbon fiber, or is another carbon composite? Carbon fiber is only one type of carbon composite. I don't see carbon fiber being ideal for using in engines. It's not very good against shear strain, and in a "block" form you're going to be very weak in one dimension (x, y, or z) where it's more the epoxy than the carbon fibers holding everything together.
        Serge
        • 3 Years Ago
        @tarheel91
        not unless you weave it out of CF... like the A-pillars of the LFA.
      JaredN
      • 3 Years Ago
      One word: "plastics"
      Toneron
      • 3 Years Ago
      In the early '80s I saw a ceramic block in the Buick engineering center in Flint. It was white. Spoke to the engineer who said it used mineral oil as a lubricant. he also said it had 2 problems - 1) way too expensive, and 2) never wore out.
      Bob
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wouldn't light weight engines create a crazy level of vibration? Sure cars have engine bracing and special devices for absorbing vibration, but I would think that the metal engine itself would be the biggest absorber. That said, they would probably be a lot more responsive and weight saving and front/rear balance is definitely a plus
      Claude Rains
      • 3 Years Ago
      He should be focusing on turning the moving parts (crank shaft, connecting rods, cylinder heads) into composites, not to mention the drive shaft/axels. Reduced rotational mass is going to be far more beneficial than a slightly lighter block (not that this idea isn't still totally cool). And don't just limit the thinking to the engine. The transmission can be just as heavy as the engine. A CFRP (or whatever) case for the transmission would save a lot of weight, but I don't think we can ever hope to replace those cogs with anything other than metal.
      Noz
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't think so...how does this address the problem of still using fuel to burn for propulsion? This is archaic. There needs to be a truly revolutionary change in transport.
      longducdong
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just what we need... more expensive parts to replace. Composites belong on race cars and aircraft, no need for them on economy cars, because well, the price just isnt economical at all.
        alainRW
        • 3 Years Ago
        @longducdong
        well, if you would have read the article, it says: "Holtzberg's carbon-fiber block has the potential to save more than 20 pounds over the aluminum equivalent, but at an enormous cost. There's no definite word on pricing just yet, but it should be at least $2,500 per pound saved, which pretty well limits the technology to race teams... for now." and thats usually how all modern technology starts... fuel injection, for example, was an expensive race car technology, and now all cars produced today have it...
          longducdong
          • 3 Years Ago
          @alainRW
          Thank you, Captain Obvious. I was well aware of what the article stated. The whole "enormous cost" was what I was getting at. And regardless if exotic composites become more available over time, theyll still be expensive, much like carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium are still.
        RT
        • 3 Years Ago
        @longducdong
        Composites are already in economy cars. Composite materials are not just carbon fiber based wings and body kits. All modern cars already have composite intake manifolds and the technology has the potential to allow a gasoline engine to run at a higher temperature resulting in a higher efficiency.
      gallandof
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wonder if with these composites, if the engine will be able to handle more extreme conditions. If so there may be extra perks other than weight loss. Maybe a Composite engine has higher redline potential, or at least something along those lines. not to mention, with furthur advancements we could see way more weight loss.
        pinyatapbjtime
        • 3 Years Ago
        @gallandof
        i would hope there would be further advancements. 20lbs for $50k (is my match right?) seems doable for most full bred race teams, but i'm assuming it would take a lot more advancement (10-15 years) before the idea can even be considered for the general consumer market.
      SloopJohnB
      • 3 Years Ago
      Honda used a ceramic/aluminum composite block years ago. A carbon/carbon composite with steel cylinder liners seems possible with adequate cooling.
      Jack Strong
      • 3 Years Ago
      Can anyone tell me what the name of his company is ? or is this a well funded hobby :P
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