MIT Among Hyperloop Pod Design Winners
Meghan Brown posted on February 03, 2016 | 5230 views
MIT’s Hyperloop pod design. (Image courtesy of MIT Hyperloop Team.)

MIT’s Hyperloop pod design. (Image courtesy of MIT Hyperloop Team.)

Last weekend saw the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design competition at Texas A&M, where more than 100 student teams from around the world competed to design a new form of transportation.

The first place winner in the competition was the MIT Hyperloop Team, who took home the top honors for best overall design. They will now progress to building a small scale prototype of their design. 

Later this summer, they will have the opportunity to test their pod on the track being built next to SpaceX’s headquarters in California.

“MIT has been involved in so many technological breakthroughs in the past century,” said team captain Philippe Kirschen, a master’s student in aeronautics and astronautics. “It just makes sense we would help advance what might be the future of transportation.”

A Look at MIT’s Winning Design

The team has been working since the fall to design a sub-scale, prototype pod for the competition. All pod designs were required to accommodate a mechanical pusher to serve as a propulsion system and to be equipped with sensors capable of broadcasting real-time telemetry data during a mile long run. Pods could also levitate inside the near-vacuum tube enclosing the track.

A rendering of MIT’s Hyperloop pod design. (Image courtesy of MIT Hyperloop Team.)

A rendering of MIT’s Hyperloop pod design. (Image courtesy of MIT Hyperloop Team.)

The MIT team focused on speed, braking, stability and levitation. For their pod to levitate, they developed a model for electrodynamic suspension that relies on powerful magnets placed over a conducting plate to generate lift. In this case, the conducting plate will be the aluminum track that SpaceX is currently building for the future pod testing.

“The beauty of the system we designed is that it’s completely passive, an elegant property that will make our pod very scalable,” Kirschen said.

The final capsule came in at approximately 2.5 meters long by about 1 meter wide, and weighed in at 250 kilograms.

They wanted their design to demonstrate three key technologies:

High Speed/Low Drag Levitation

Using a passive magnetic levitation system incorporating two arrays of 20 neodymium magnets, the pod will maintain a 15mm gap height at the cruising speed of 110m/s, and a peak lift-to-drag ratio of 14.

Robust Lateral Control

This system will use passive magnets and active electromagnetic damping to keep the pod centered on the rail and maintain lateral stability.

Fail-safe Emergency Braking

The braking system is designed to be mechanically fail-safe, braking automatically if the actuators or computers fail. The system is single fault tolerant and can decelerate the pod at the 2.4G maximum as permitted under the SpaceX rules.  From top speed, the brakes dissipate 1.5MJ of kinetic energy.

Woven carbon fiber and polycarbonate sheets will comprise the pod’s shell, offering only 2N aerodynamic drag at 110 m/s in the lowest tube pressure available, 140Pa.

Location of the levitation system (blue), lateral control system (green) and braking system (red) inside MIT’s pod design. (Image courtesy of MIT Hyperloop Team.)
Location of the levitation system (blue), lateral control system (green) and braking system (red) inside MIT’s pod design. (Image courtesy of MIT Hyperloop Team.)

Further details of the MIT team’s winning design can be found on their website.

What’s Next for the Winners? The SpaceX Hyperloop Test Track

With the first stage of the competition complete, the MIT team will now focus on fabricating a larger scale prototype. They will move from simulation and design to building with aluminum and carbon fibre, testing out braking systems and dangerously strong magnets. The final assembly must be finished by mid-May, to prepare for testing on the SpaceX track.

Although MIT came away with the top overall prize, 21 other student teams won awards in various other categories, as well as the opportunity to advance to the SpaceX Hyperloop test track in California later this summer.

Teams’ design plans were judged on a variety of criteria including innovation and uniqueness of design, full Hyperloop system applicability and economics, level of design detail, strength of supporting analysis and tests, feasibility for test tract competition and quality of documentation and presentation.

The top five winning student teams in the design and build category are:

  • Best Overall Design Award - MIT Hyperloop Team, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Pod Innovation Award - Delft Hyperloop, Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
  • Pod Technical Excellence Award - Badgerloop, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Pod Technical Excellence Award - Hyperloop at Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech
  • Pod Technical Excellence Award - HyperXite, University of California Irvine

A variety of technical awards were awarded to student teams whose designs displayed outstanding technical merit in subsystems and design.

Subsystems

Judging criteria included innovation and uniqueness of subsystem design, full Hyperloop system applicability and economics, level of design detail, strength of supporting analysis and tests, and quality of documentation and presentation.

  • Best Overall Subsystem Award - Auburn University Hyperloop Team, Auburn University
  • Special Innovation Award in the Other Subsystem - RIT Imaging, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Levitation Subsystem Technical Excellence Award - TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop, Texas A&M
  • Braking Subsystem Technical Excellence Award - VicHyper, RMIT University
  • Propulsion/Compression Subsystem Technical Excellence Award - Makers UPV Team, Universitat Politència de Valencia (Spain)
  • Safety Subsystem Technical Excellence Award - UWashington Hyperloop, University of Washington
  • Subsystem Technical Excellence Award - Hyped, University of Edinburgh
  • Subsystem Technical Excellence Award - Conant Hyperloop Club, Conant High School (Hoffman States, Illinois)
  • Subsystem Innovation Award - Ryerson’s International Hyperloop Team, Ryerson University (Canada)

 Design Only Awards

  • Top Design Concept Award - Makers UPV Team, Universitat Politència de Valencia (Spain)
  • Design Concept Innovation Award - Nova Hyperloop Team, University of Cairo
  • Design Concept Innovation Award - Auburn University Hyperloop Team, Auburn University

Additional student teams invited to the California test track weekend include:

  • uWaterloo Hyperloop, University of Waterloo
  • UWashington Hyperloop, University of Washington
  • University of Toronto, University of Toronto
  • RUMD Loop, University of Maryland and Rutgers University
  • GatorLoop, University of Florida
  • Team HyperLynx, University of Colorado-Denver
  • Hyperloop UC, University of Cincinnati
  • UCSB Hyperloop, University of California-Santa Barbara
  • bLoop, University of California-Berkeley
  • TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop, Texas A&M
  • WARR Hyperloop, Technical University of Munich (Germany)
  • Purdue Hyperloop Design Team, Purdue University
  • Codex, Oral Roberts University
  • Lehigh Hyperloop, Lehigh University
  • Keio Alpha, Keio University
  • Drexel Hyperloop, Drexel University
  • Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop, Carnegie-Mellon University
Elon Musk surprised the student teams at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition with a speech on the future of transportation. (Image courtesy of Texas A&M University Engineering.)

Elon Musk surprised the student teams at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition with a speech on the future of transportation. (Image courtesy of Texas A&M University Engineering.)

The Hyperloop competition weekend culminated with the awards ceremony on January 30th, including a surprise appearance by Elon Musk, who gave a speech to the assembled student teams on the future of transportation. The 34-minute speech is available to watch here.

For details on the Hyperloop program, check out ENGINEERING.com’s webinar with Josh Giegel from Hyperloop Technologies, or visit the SpaceX Hyperloop website.

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