“In the final competition, we found that many more pod designs utilized advanced composite material solutions, further reinforcing it as a material that matches the demands of the Hyperloop concept,” says John Darlington, TenCate’s head of product management.


Students from Delft University of Technology laminate their pod for SpaceX’s inaugural Hyperloop competition. Photo credit: TenCate Advanced Composites

For the design phase, the TU Delft team approached TenCate Advanced Composites, a multinational Netherlands-based company that has worked with the university for many years across academia and student competitions alike. Marinus van der Meijs, structures & aerodynamics project manager at the Delft Hyperloop Team, says the team paired with TenCate for its “wide range of quality products and expert knowledge.”

Composites were used in the chassis of the pod, the floor inside the pod (with honeycomb core also supplied by TenCate), the covers for the pod’s suspension and the “tail” of the vehicle. The Delft Hyperloop Team describes the tail as what protects all the electronics and batteries of the pod and provides the best possible aerodynamics.

TenCate’s recently-opened European Centre of Excellence for thermoset systems in Langley Mill, U.K., supplied the university’s team with epoxy-based carbon fiber materials for the manufacture of the pod’s monocoque. One primary material was TenCate 8020, a variable cure epoxy-based CFRP prepreg with woven and unidirectional fiber reinforcements.

“Prepregs deliver the optimum fiber-to-weight ratio resulting in the best performance from the fiber properties when compared to resin infusion and other composite fabrication techniques,” says Darlington. “Due to the specific nature of this unique pod, thermoset composites enabled the fabrication at room temperature with low-cost tooling.”

According to van der Meijs, composites helped the team create a pod with a flexible design shape, light weight, high strength and high stiffness compared to metals and plastics.

“The shape of the tail would have been very hard to produce using aluminum sheet metal,” says van der Meijs. “Sure, making a few parts from plastic and forming them would have been possible. However, strength and stiffness requirements would never have been met.”

Darlington adds that the SpaceX Hyperloop program is a perfect example of student innovation and highlights composite development. “TenCate is very proud to have supported the Delft team with their development and believe that the winning pod will attract a lot of attention from competitive teams and composite designers alike,” he says.

Additionally, the Delft Hyperloop Team has created its own Hyperloop startup company known as HARDT. UNIIQ, a firm from South Holland dedicated to helping Dutch entrepreneurs, has invested €600,000 (approximately US$640,000) in HARDT and expects to finish building a fully operating test project in four years.