Transport of the future

Could you imagine that someday it will be possible to travel from Paris to Amsterdam within just 40 minutes?
5 July, 2019
The participants of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition launched by Elon Mask not only dream about that but also compete against each other in the development of the super-high-speed-trains, the so-called pods. Aluminium, by the way, is one of the most preferable materials for such a "transport of the future". Let's find out about one of the teams.

For the past few years, Hyperloop participants from around the world have been trying to get a nearly impossible travel speed of 1200 km/h closer to reality. One team, however, this year is not planning to beat this incredible score. UNSW Hyperloop has taken a different course, paying significant attention to the transport's reliability, safety and redundancy in their design, explained Project Manager Harry Zhang.

Nevertheless, their pod could go as fast as 330 km/h in the near-vacuum tunnel, which is "quite significant compared to the other non-German teams", he said.

UNSW Hyperloop's approach was well received by the SpaceX engineers. This is perfectly illustrated by the fact that UNSW Hyperloop team earned a place among only 22 teams (whittled from more than 2000 applicants) at the upcoming 2019 Hyperloop Pod Competition, which will take place on 21 July.

"Everything is quite modular, everything is quite replaceable and so if things do fail, they can be hot-swapped, ready to go," said Zhang, who studied aerospace engineering and computer science.

"Many teams in the past have faltered due to component malfunction or failure and, due to the extent of their system integration, were unable to repair or replace components effectively."

According to the project manager, this year the judges were impressed with the practicality of the UNSW Hyperloop design.

Next year the team might consider working with a manufacturer and designing a new battery. As for now the drive system is supplied by a 44.4 V lithium-polymer (li-po) accumulator. A smaller, independent 12 V lithium-ion battery powers pod telemetry. The braking system is also created to be as practical as possible. A magnetic brake at the back might fail, but there is redundancy built in through an additional frictional brake.

Most of the pod is carbon fibre composite and aluminium. The winged metal is also widely used for producing the chassis.

During the competition, each pod will travel through 1.2 km of steel tube, with a new requirement this year that they "be designed and tested to propel themselves within 100 feet of the far end of the tube before stopping".

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