How is hyperloop engineering progressing? The HYPED students provide insights

IE connected with HYPED, a 130-student engineering team dedicated to making high-speed hyperloop transport a reality.
Sade Agard
Greyfairs poddy shell
Greyfairs poddy shell

Courtesy of HYPED  

  • The hyperloop is a proposed ultra-high-speed public transportation and goods system that could travel up to 700 miles per hour.
  • Interesting Engineering (IE) interviewed the president of HYPED, an initiative dedicated to teaching students the skills they need to make this future mode of transport a reality.
  • We explore how hyperloop technology could materialize and, over time, potentially revolutionize how people will live and move.

Hyperloop technology has the potential to revolutionize how we travel, offering ultra-high-speed transportation with minimal carbon emissions. In a nutshell, this 'futuristic' mode of transport consists of sleek metal pods that utilize low-pressure air cushion technology and magnetic levitation, enabling travelers to travel at speeds up to 700 miles per hour — more than twice as fast as high-speed rail and faster even than a commercial aircraft's speeds of around 460-575 MPH.

But what else can we expect hyperloop tech to deliver in addition to unprecedented speed, and what problems could it solve? And, while the technology is starting to pick up steam (figuratively speaking) - since Elon Musk renewed interest in the 200-year-old concept back in 2012 - when might we expect hyperloop pods to connect our nearby cities?

To learn more, Interesting Engineering (IE) contacted Gregory Dayaothe president of HYPED- a 130-student engineering and science team from the University of Edinburgh, UK. HYPED is dedicated to making this future vision of high-speed transport a reality with cutting-edge technology and prototypes. 

How is hyperloop engineering progressing? The HYPED students provide insights
HYPED is a 130-student team dedicated to developing hyperloop technology

Dayao explained that HYPED is an initiative that supports university students in advancing their engineering skills and participating in developing the future of hyperloop technology. Through exposure to practical, up-to-date technology and open-source designs, its members gain an invaluable learning experience as they work on small-scale prototypes. 

Projects include autonomous transportation, high-speed transportation, and sustainability ventures that educate and inspire HYPED participants, preparing them to succeed beyond their academic life. 

He highlighted that the aim is to produce a full-scale model incorporating many designs proposed within the hyperloop community and stated that HYPED provides educational opportunities and a creative community, aiming to create value and shape the future of transportation.

What is the HYPED hyperloop pod made of?

"Our prototype pod is composed of many different subsystems," Dayao told IE. 

"We work with composite materials, such as fiberglass and carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP), to make the structural components of the pod, specifically the chassis and aeroshell."

How is hyperloop engineering progressing? The HYPED students provide insights
Magnetic brakes

He explained that the chassis is the backbone of the pod. At the same time, the aeroshell encloses all subsystems within it and is aerodynamically optimized to reduce drag. 

Although the hyperloop travels in a near vacuum, there will still be some drag on the pod.

"We work with electromagnets to design a linear induction motor that propels the pod forward along the track. This motor can act as a contactless propulsion and braking system by altering the direction of the moving magnetic field," he said. 

"We are also designing a cooling system to dissipate heat from the motor," he added.

"The motor is powered by our custom high-voltage battery packs made of lithium polymer batteries. The pod's electronics system also determines its position and monitors health through a complex array of sensors."

Additionally, the hyperloop's control system is designed for the pod to operate from start to finish autonomously. This combination of components makes HYPED's hyperloop pod one of the most advanced modes of transportation today.

How is HYPED driving hyperloop technology forward?

Dayao highlighted that HYPED is an innovation-centered ecosystem for university students to develop the necessary skills for their professional careers and generate value for hyperloop development.

"Our members are inspired by many aspects pertaining to hyperloop, including autonomous transportation, high-speed transportation, and sustainability, "he said. 

HYPED members prepare themselves as leaders in hyperloop technology by working on different initiatives, from technical and research to outreach and business development. 

"Our small-scale hyperloop prototypes are what we envision aspects of full-scale hyperloop will be. As the technology is open-source, many companies and student teams bring different designs to the table," he stated.

"HYPED believes that future hyperloop will employ a combination of these technologies, and our technical team works towards developing these technologies further to prove its feasibility."

How will hyperloop transport become a reality?

Dayao pointed out that it's likely that any hyperloop would be introduced in phases, such as first employing the optimized versions of contactless propulsion and levitation on existing railway infrastructure, without the vacuum tube component. 

"These technologies may be used for pods that transport people or cargo, depending on geographical location and demand," he said. 

"Hyperloop technology takes the fundamental aspects of physics and engineering we know now, optimizes it for sustainability, and then integrates it into a new system that we have not seen before," he added. 

How is hyperloop engineering progressing? The HYPED students provide insights
A test site

HYPED's research team also publishes papers on full-scale hyperloop's and technical and socioeconomic aspects. For instance, previous papers include a proposal for a hyperloop route from Edinburgh to London, as well as an analysis of different forms of levitation for the hyperloop. 

"We present these papers at conferences to raise awareness of hyperloop and defend our proposal of a full-scale hyperloop," he said. 

Dayao explained how their outreach team engages with the broader community on STEM and Hyperloop technology through school outreach programs, public events, and industry conferences like New Scientist Live. 

"This division of our society is arguably the most important because it raises awareness of hyperloop technology and inspires younger generations in future STEM careers. These generations will be at the forefront of hyperloop development in the future," highlighted Dayao. 

Additionally, HYPED is a co-founder and co-organizer of European Hyperloop Week - an annual conference and competition for students, companies, industry representatives, and enthusiasts. 

"European Hyperloop Week (EHW) provides a forward-looking approach to hyperloop development for its future implementation, and HYPED is proud to be co-leading this initiative and expanding the global hyperloop community," he said. 

What's holding hyperloop technology back?

Dayao disclosed that, as a student society, the HYPED community would not be directly involved in manufacturing full-scale hyperloop in the UK or worldwide. Instead, they hope to develop the technology and increase public awareness of hyperloop technology to the point where it can be introduced in our lifetimes. 

"The biggest limitation is public support. Hyperloop will need to overcome a similar initial skepticism to commercial air travel in the 1900s," he revealed. 

How is hyperloop engineering progressing? The HYPED students provide insights
Gaining public acceptance is one challenge

"Hyperloop needs the support not only from the private sector, such as ambitious start-ups like HyperloopTT and Hardt Hyperloop, but also the public sector."

He argued that these organizations would need to work together across borders to create an international hyperloop network so that the public can benefit most.

The future of hyperloop

It's safe to say that hyperloop advocates like HYPED have a lot of great selling points, such as its potential environmental friendliness and the ability to reduce the strain on existing long-distance traffic routes.

Even the possibility that hyperloops could act as a transportation safety net during natural disasters has been raised. For instance, hyperloop transport could swiftly transport disaster relief supplies and workers to affected areas if a highway or bridge is damaged.

That said, it is also evident from our talk with HYPED that a few potholes in the road (or tunnel) need to be better understood.

While Dayao mentioned public acceptance as one major obstacle to introducing the hyperloop as a feasible mode of transport, there is no doubt other implications also need to be considered: infrastructure costs, the types of renewable energy that could power the pods, whether to site the tunnels underground or overground and the environmental impacts of this, as well as more information concerning safety protocols (to name a few).

But ultimately, they are a community focused on finding solutions, and IE is here to watch how hyperloop technology will materialize and, over time, potentially revolutionize how we all live and move.

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