It is 2046. Ruben Speelman takes the hyperloop to spend a weekend in Paris. He gets off at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, half an hour after departure. In 2019, this may still sound like a fairy tale to many people. But Ruben, and the other students of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) that are part of Delft Hyperloop, are confident that this vacuum train is the means of transport of the future. During a gap year of his Civil Engineering studies, he works on the development of the air pressure tube and the pod that will travel through it.
Do I consider the hyperloop the means of transport of the future? Yes, but it will take some time before everyone accepts this.The student has just completed his bachelor’s degree. He wants to gain some practical experience before starting with his master's degree in the next academic year. “I know exactly how do to things in theory, but it is now time to put my knowledge into practice. Because the Delft Hyperloop team consists of students from various disciplines within TU Delft, I learn a lot about other subjects, such as electrical engineering. Participating in this project is a great addition to my studies and good for my development. I have a lot of contact with companies and can take a look behind the scenes there. And the companies get to know me and the person behind my name. We also talk a lot with TU Delft professors. They have great scientific knowledge and want to help us. We can also check with them whether the things we have thought up are actually correct.”
“Participating in Delft Hyperloop is a great addition to my studies and good for my development.”
The infrastructure. This is the greatest challenge within Ruben's discipline of civil engineering. “The hyperloop consists of a pod which transports persons or goods through a vast network of tubes. You need a lot of tubes to take a pod from a to b. Tunes with a diameter of 3.5 metres that can withstand all weather conditions and not suffer from vacuum leaks. That's expensive. We study how we can make the hyperloop structure more affordable and look at different types of materials.” Sustainability is important. “We are currently considering using steel for the tubes. This is easy to recycle. We place the tubes on concrete pillars, as concrete is recycled more and more. To make the entire system more sustainable, we place solar panels on top of the tubes.”
The hyperloop is considered an alternative to flights to European destinations. But will this mean that there will be an alternative ‘airport’ for this way to travel? Ruben: “There will be separate hyperloop stations that will look a lot like train stations. The main differences are the security checks and the air locks to let the passengers get on and off safely.” This last aspect is quite a challenge, according to the student. “There are different options for preventing vacuum loss in the hyperloop. We prefer creating a lock at the station where the pod is taking out of the vacuum. We are currently testing this option. What will happen with the air in this tube? And what is the impact of a leak? Not much is known about this and this is why we try to answer these and other questions using a test configuration.”
New means of transport
Even though there are plenty of hurdles to take before the hyperloop can finally be used, Ruben is confident that this way of travelling will replace airplanes. “The system has great potential. However, it will still take around twenty years or so before the first network will have been created.” There is also a lot of work to be done before the hyperloop will be an accepted way to travel. “It is an entirely new way of transport. Even when we make it as safe as it can be, travellers must start using it. When the first airplane was introduced, people were sceptical, but we cannot imagine a world without them now.”
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Engineer Elon Musk presented the idea of a vacuum train, the hyperloop, back in 2012. Since then a joint team consisting of Musk's companies Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company have been working on the development of this new way to travel. In addition to that they introduced a Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2015, which challenges student teams and companies to build their own pod. The winner is the team that manages to achieve the highest speed on a 1.2-kilometre track.
Delft Hyperloop is a team of forty motivated students attending the University of Technology of Delft (TU Delft) who study the feasibility of the hyperloop system and create a pod to participate in the competition during a six-month period. The current team already passed the first tests and is selected for the final round this summer in Los Angeles, USA. Join the meet up and learn everything about their success.
Interested in developing an engineering career as a young professional in the Netherlands? Contact Glenn Kitzen, commercial manager Yacht Engineering, for more information.