A team of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took top honors at a recent competition at Texas A&M University to design the Hyperloop – a high-speed transportation concept created by Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The team beat a field of more than 100 other teams from around the world with its design, which features a passenger pod made of woven carbon fiber and polycarbonate sheets.
Musk’s Hyperloop is a system of above-ground, low-friction tubes connecting major cities. Passenger pods zip through the tubes at more than 700 mph, meaning it could potentially transport people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes, according to Gizmag.
SpaceX is not designing the Hyperloop itself, but last summer, started a competition to see who could design the best iteration of the Hyperloop. MIT’s design won the first stage of the competition, and will be joined in the second round by 22 other teams from the first round, including groups from the University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Waterloo. This will involve building a working prototype to test on a one-mile track at SpaceX headquarters this coming summer. Final assembly must be complete by mid-May.
The capsule is roughly 8 feet long and weighs about 551 pounds. In addition to the carbon fiber and polycarbonate sheets on the exterior of the pod, MIT’s design incorporates magnets, which lift the pod. The magnets maintain a 15 mm (0.6 in) levitation gap above the track. According to MIT Ph.D. student Philippe Kirschen, “Ideally, it will reach a speed in excess of 100 meters per second.”
Neither SpaceX nor MIT are strangers to composites innovation. Recently, SpaceX pulled off a historic landing of its composites-intensive Falcon 9 rocket, marking the first time a rocket launched a payload into orbit and then returned safely to Earth. MIT researchers have also used CFRP to make an innovative robotic cheetah.