- Title: Delft team seeks Hyperloop prize
- Date: 28th December 2016
- Summary: UTRECHT, NETHERLANDS (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) SASCHA LAMME (PRON: LAR-MA), VEHICLE DYNAMICS CHIEF FOR DELFT HYPERLOOP, SAYING: "These two items (levitation and braking systems) we tested extensively on two of our test set-ups; and these are discs that spin very fast to mimic the track and then what you can see is that it starts levitating at a height of almost two centimetres. But also our braking system really controls the vehicle very smoothly, to get to a controlled stop, so that all the passengers still feel comfortable."
- Embargoed: 12th January 2017 10:53
- Keywords: Hyperloop Elon Musk Delft TU Delft Las Vegas Space X capsule transport
- Location: UTRECHT AND DELFT, NETHERLANDS / ANIMATION / FILE LOCATIONS
- City: UTRECHT AND DELFT, NETHERLANDS / ANIMATION / FILE LOCATIONS
- Country: Netherlands
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0045ESRXWB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Researchers from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) are hoping to bring the futuristic dream of billionaire inventor Elon Musk to reality.
In 2013 South-African business magnate Musk unveiled his concept of Hyperloop, a transportation system that would allow passengers to travel at almost the speed of sound inside reduced-pressure tubes.
Last year Musk announced a design competition for students and independent engineering teams to build Hyperloop pods and operate them on a mile-long track built by his company SpaceX in Hawthorne, California.
The Delft Hyperloop, developed by a 33-strong team of TU Delft students, is among the favourites for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, which takes place between January 27 and 29, 2017.
Vehicle dynamics chief Sascha Lamme told Reuters that, despite the seemingly outlandish idea of allowing passengers to travel at speeds of up to 750 miles per hour (1,207 kilometres per hour), the concept created by Musk is "actually quite simple." He added: It's a pressure vessel, it has a levitation system, a braking system, and some electronics, and that's basically all you need to get a Hyperloop working."
When announcing his concept three years ago, Musk announced the Hyperloop's basic technical details - the idea of eliminating air resistance by travelling inside a levitating pod. The system's carbon fibre capsules would run above ground and along low pressure steel tubes.
Musk has left the development of the actual technology itself to commercial firms.
Lamme says the Delft Hyperloop works by using passive magnetic bearing (PMB), which allows contact-free levitation of pods.
"What's so nice about it is that these magnets they're not electro-magnets that require current, but they're passive, permanent magnets, so the ones you can put on your fridge, for example - and that makes the entire system very energy efficient," said Lamme. "You don't need to put in any power to start levitating. You just gain speed and then the vehicle wants to go up and levitate by itself."
The Delft Hyperloop is designed to be lightweight, its half-size pod prototype weighing just 149 kilograms.
According to Lamme, it's designed to reach speeds similar to those envisioned by Musk, but the one mile length of the SpaceX track will limit contestants to around 360 kilometres per hour (224 miles per hour) in testing.
The team is confident of victory, believing that its unique levitation and braking systems will prove superior to those of the other contestants. In last January's preliminary design competition in Texas, the Delft Hyperloop came second in the overall category, behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology team, while winning the Pod Innovation award.
More than 2,000 applicants were whittled down to 124 teams for the Texas trials, and now just 30 teams are left in the running.
"These two items (levitation and braking systems) we have tested extensively on two of our test set-ups," said Lamme. "Our discs spin very fast to mimic the track and then what you can see is that it starts levitating at a height of almost two centimetres. But also our braking system really controls the vehicle very smoothly, to get to a controlled stop, so that all the passengers still feel comfortable."
Lamme says that so long as acceleration is achieved gradually, passengers should not feel uncomfortable, despite travelling faster than a jet plane.
In the case of emergencies, such as a pod in front having come to a halt or a power outage, a braking system would automatically bring the pod to a halt.
"Even when the power is lost in the entire vehicle, the vehicle will come to a quick standstill, so everyone is safe," Lamme told Reuters.
The Delft Hyperloop design incorporates high-definition displays that offer a simulated 360 degree of the surrounding landscape, as well as personal information screens fitted to each seat.
In May Los Angeles-based company Hyperloop One, unaffiliated to Musk's team, conducted a successful test of its high speed transportation technology in the desert outside Las Vegas.
Musk believes Hyperloop travel will be cheaper, faster and more efficient than high speed rail projects, including the one currently being built in California.
Maglev (magnetic levitation) technology would levitate the pods to reduce friction in the city-to-city system, which would be fully autonomous and electric powered.
Executives in Hyperloop One, formerly known as Hyperloop Technologies, include Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist well known for his investments in innovative companies like Uber and Airbnb.
In November Hyperloop One signed an agreement with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to test the feasibility of running a service to Abu Dhabi, cutting the 150 kilometre (90 miles) journey between the two cities to just 12 minutes. The company believes such as system could be built in the UAE within five years.
Although not developing a commercial Hyperloop system themselves, SpaceX says it wishes to help "accelerate development" of a functional Hyperloop prototype.
Winners of January's competition will not automatically win the right to commercialise their technology, but hope victory will put them at the front of the queue for funding by tech companies eager to finance such a program.
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