Hyperloop diary: University of Edinburgh

In the first of a new series, Duncan Webb from Edinburgh University’s Hyperloop team (HypED) tells The Student Engineer about the project.

The University of Edinburgh has reached the final of the SpaceX Hyperloop competition to create an ultra fast (700 mph), environmentally-conscious transport network that has the potential to get people off planes, and link cities like Edinburgh and London in just 35 minutes.

We’re one of only 24 teams around the world, one of only four in Europe and have already got the backing of engineering companies like RS Components, Cirrus Logic and Costain. And prototype development is well underway.

What the project is

For those not familiar with Hyperloop, the concept has been around since 2012 and was dreamt up by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk. Passengers in a capsule would be accelerated via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube at 95 per cent of the speed of sound.

For distances up to 900 miles it has the potential to replace the short-haul flight, and given that France has just announced it will be banning petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, it’s not hard to imagine a time when short-haul flights will be outlawed too.

It’s in the prototyping phase, so still years away from being implemented. Putting this in context, the Crossrail project, which is technically far easier, with tunnels far shorter, will have taken 20 years from idea to implementation. This is therefore still decades away from the first one opening, but will be vital in meeting climate change targets.

What we’re doing

The HypED team here at Edinburgh University has been running for two years and we now have over 50 students from various disciplines working on the project to create a half-scale prototype pod. Once built, this will be test-tracked in SpaceX’s one-mile long, six-foot diameter tube, up against the other 23 finalists. As you can imagine, competition is fierce.

We’re approaching the home stretch, with the final due to take place in California in late August. Production and assembly of the pod are now in full flow at our School of Engineering. You can follow our progress in more detail on the RS Components website and in future blogs on The Student Engineer.

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