The Michigan Engineer News Center

Better ingredients. Better performance.

In many ways, Novum is a product of team firsts. On the surface, its caliber of multijunction gallium arsenide solar cells and small array set it apart from anything they’ve ever built. But what’s beneath the surface is equally innovative. | Short Read
EnlargeJanice Lau, Race Operations Engineer works on Novum's carbon fiber shell.
IMAGE:  Janice Lau, Race Operations Engineer works on Novum's carbon fiber shell. Photo: Akhil Kantipuly

To ensure their simulations and computer models translated to the physical car during fabrication, the team decided to use a higher-grade carbon fiber and advanced manufacturing process.

Although the team’s vehicles are traditionally constructed with carbon fiber, this year they decided to use carbon fiber for the molds as well – as opposed to the usual fiberglass. Janice Lau is a rising sophomore studying industrial and operations engineering. She is on the team’s operations division and was responsible for sourcing the premium-grade carbon fiber.

The most important factor is aerodynamics.Janice Lau, Race Operations Engineer

“We’re using carbon fiber for the molds to ensure that the thermal expansion rates of the molds match the parts we’re making. If they expand at the same rate, the parts will be more precise and match our projected performance,” explains Lau.

EnlargeEric Brown, Race Array Engineer works on Novum's carbon fiber shell.
IMAGE:  Eric Brown, Race Array Engineer works on Novum's carbon fiber shell. Photo: Akhil Kantypuli

In the pursuit of precision, the team used a resin infusion process to better form the carbon to their molds. It’s something they’ve never done, but they got guidance from the U-M Formula Racing team who has. It was a time-consuming process that, for a period, had the team working in shifts for 24 hours a day.

Lack of sleep is one thing that is definitely not a team first.

2017 Solar Car Coverage
Nose of solar car, Novum.

In-depth coverage of the national champions.

Janice Lau, Race Operations Engineer works on Novum's carbon fiber shell.
Eric Brown, Race Array Engineer works on Novum's carbon fiber shell.
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The electrons absorb laser light and set up “momentum combs” (the hills) spanning the energy valleys within the material (the red line). When the electrons have an energy allowed by the quantum mechanical structure of the material—and also touch the edge of the valley—they emit light. This is why some teeth of the combs are bright and some are dark. By measuring the emitted light and precisely locating its source, the research mapped out the energy valleys in a 2D crystal of tungsten diselenide. Credit: Markus Borsch, Quantum Science Theory Lab, University of Michigan.

Mapping quantum structures with light to unlock their capabilities

Rather than installing new “2D” semiconductors in devices to see what they can do, this new method puts them through their paces with lasers and light detectors. | Medium Read