CMU advances in high-speed ground transit competition
February 3, 2016 12:00 AM
Carnegie Mellon University Hyperloop Team members, from left, Laine Mallet, Himanshu Rasam, Loren Russell and Richard Stavert, all graduate students, pose for a portrait with a preliminary scale pod mockup.
By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Carnegie Mellon University has made the cut and will compete in June against 22 other teams in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, which is an early step to create a high-speed ground-transportation system.
The idea is to approach the speed of sound (767 mph) through a low-pressure tube, or Hyperloop, with help from levitation and solar-powered electromagnetic acceleration. Famed SpaceX founder Elon Musk outlined the Hyperloop concept in his 2013 white paper.
About 120 teams, from 1,000 initial entries, met last weekend at Texas A&M University to present their plans for scale-size transit vehicles, or pods, before a panel of SpaceX, Tesla and academic engineers. A Robert Morris University team did not make the cut.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team won the overall competition with a design using, among other things, a pod with skis using magnets to produce passive levitation, along with a stabilizing system and an external propulsion method to catapult the pod from a standstill position without requiring an on-board motor.
The 75-member team in CMU’s Integrated Innovation Institute, led by Anshuman Kumar, 22, of Delhi, India, plans to use a battery-powered air compressor to produce air bearings — jets of air beneath the pod to levitate it a half-inch off guide rails. That would reduce friction and allow the pod to reach speeds approaching the competition limit of 200 mph.
During the June competition, teams will run their scale-sized pods on a one-mile Hyperloop prototype under construction near the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. The CMU team, working to raise $100,000 for the project, received two sponsorships during the competition. Mr. Kumar couldn’t be reached for comment.
“The public wants something new,” Mr. Musk told competitors, “and you’re going to give it to them.”
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