Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop
What is the Hyperloop?
The Hyperloop, first proposed by Elon Musk in 2013, is a new ultra-high speed ground based transportation network of tubes that could span hundreds of miles. With extremely low air pressure inside those tubes, pods filled with people would zip through them at transonic speeds.
6 months ago, Anshuman Kumar met 3 future Carnegie Mellon classmates for dinner in Delhi, India. It only took a few minutes for all 4 of them to realize that they shared an insane passion. They all wanted to do something truly spectacular and ground breaking while at Carnegie Mellon University.
Not a week later, Elon Musk and SpaceX announced the competition to build an actual Hyperloop pod, and Anshuman knew immediately how he would be spending the next year of his life. He immediately began reaching out to SpaceX and Tesla engineers to find suitable advisors and to learn more about the competition. He also recruited his 3 new classmates among several other current CMU students, more than a month before he even arrived in Pittsburgh.
Fast forward to today, and the group has been through countless discussions, work sessions, fall outs, patch ups and innumerable road blocks to come out the other end with a dynamic, unified and highly capable team. They have grown and learned from each other and are excited to take on this next stage.
What is really driving the team?
There are an endless number of reasons why the team is so driven and excited about the Hyperloop. It might be that it is the brain-child of Elon Musk, a man who can seemingly do no wrong when it comes to new ideas. It could be that SpaceX, the only private company ever to be able to launch something into space, is significantly investing in its success. OR It could be the potential of traveling 350 miles in 30 minutes.
The real motivation is the impact this will have on people, cities and society. Right now it’s a "Vacation," when a mother and father in Pittsburgh want to visit their daughter at college in New York. With Hyperloop it becomes as simple as "Dinner in the city tonight". This is really about relationships and bringing people closer together. The experiences, the stories, and the joy that people get from "traveling" becomes a part of our everyday lives.
The SpaceX Design Competition
In June 2015, Elon’s company SpaceX launched an international competition with the aim of accelerating the development of a functional Hyperloop pod. In parallel with the competition, SpaceX is constructing a sub-scale test track (inner diameter approx 6 feet; length approximately 1 mile) adjacent to its Hawthorne, California headquarters. On competition weekend in the Summer of 2016, entrants will operate their pods within this test track.
On January 13, we will be submitting our full design package that covers every aspect of the pod. On January 29-30, our team will be traveling to Texas to present in front Tesla Motors Engineers, SpaceX Engineers and University Professors.
The goal of the Design Weekend is for entrants to present their pod designs at a common platform. Teams will receive feedback, vetting, and approval to proceed to then construct their pod for the Competition Weekend in June 2016.
Carnegie Mellon HyperLoop Team
Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop is an interdisciplinary team of more than 50 Engineers, Designers, and Business students with the vision of taking a pod all the way through the competition to win and get funding and support to help make Hyperloop transportation a reality. Please read our bios above to learn more about us!
After working on this project for six months, we have been accepted into the semi-final round of the competition. We have been invited to present our designs at Texas A&M University at the end of January 2016, where we will go head to head with teams from MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley and many more for a spot in the top 10.
Why we are unique?
The number of challenges to overcome is daunting, but below are the 3 main categories that make our pod design unique:
1. The engine
Imagine you are sitting on an airplane and looking out the window at the massive jet engine attached to the plane. What's happening is the engine is sucking in air with that giant fan-like-contraption at the front, then it is compressing the air down and shooting it out the back at a massive velocity which is what propels the plane forward. Strip out the combustion chamber, the fuel lines, and the turbine. Now imagine yourself sitting in the middle of that jet engine, with the air being compressed all around you. That is the Hyperloop pod, and the basis of our design.
With all the air flowing through high pressure pipes in the pod, we now have the source of levitation if you simply direct that air pressure down instead of out the back of the pod.
So that the pod can now go really fast and can float. How do we slow down if the pod is not actually touching anything in the tube? The answer: Magnets. A travelling magnetic field, induced by the use of an alternating current running through a system of conductors provides the required forces for propulsion, braking and lateral stability of the pod.
The design direction taken by the team is pretty unique in that it involves a very deliberate focus on the long term development of a full scale Hyperloop. The competition, being conducted at half scale and around ⅓ of the actual speed, affords certain allowances to participants. For example, SpaceX is allowing teams to compete with a pod with wheels, which of course would never work for the full scale Hyperloop. Participants are also able to submit designs which completely ignore one or all of the certain design considerations which are applicable only to the fully developed Hyperloop. The irony lies in the fact that even though those designs make sense for the sub-scale tube in the competition, they do not scale readily to the full size.
Our team on the other hand is very aware of the fact that over and above the event itself, the basic rationale behind this competition is to aid the development of an actual Hyperloop. This philosophy of making a readily scalable design manifests itself in all of our design decisions even if it means dealing with a higher level of complexity.
Some examples are as follows:
- The use of an air bearings instead of standard Arx Pax engines
- The use of an on board compression system instead of storage tanks
- The use of linear induction motors for propulsion instead of relying on SpaceX pushers
How are we spending the money?
This month, we are working towards our final design package. However, we need financing and mentorship in order to realize our vision. Our preliminary design, deemed “solid and impressive” by SpaceX, is now at the stage to begin hardware prototyping at a sub-system level. Our funding goal is ultimately $20,000 which covers our budget for testing and prototyping before the end of January.
In our efforts to design a truly scalable Hyperloop pod, we find ourselves dealing with questions that even industry experts have trouble answering. The most pressing issue is that of the air bearings we intend to use. Even the most promising alternative for our levitation system, an air caster style bearing, has never been tested at the extreme conditions that have been proposed for the final event. These involve:
- Extremely high surface speeds (+200 mph)
- Low ambient pressure (100 Pa)
- Partial loading (1/4th of rated capacity)
The situation necessitates that we carry out primary research and prototyping by putting together a test rig which artificially simulates these condition for the Levitation assembly. This test rig will allow us to generate quantitative proof to substantiate our designs move to the final round and actually build our pod.
Click here for a detailed budget.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read through our project!
Please take a moment to support our team by donating at whatever level you feel is appropriate.
We are also looking for the following:
1. Corporate Sponsorship
2. A team of Advisors
3. Relationships with suppliers for the materials we want
For more information or to get involved, feel free to reach out to Anshuman Kumar at firstname.lastname@example.org.