Students design transport of the future
An Edinburgh team is preparing to take part in a global contest to develop a new form of high-speed transportation.
The interdisciplinary group of students - called HypED - has entered the second installment of a competition to design the futuristic system, known as the Hyperloop.
The system – the brainchild of billionaire inventor Elon Musk – could allow land-based transportation at speeds of up to 750mph.
Such a system could cut the journey time from Edinburgh to London - currently around four and a half hours by train - to about 35 minutes.
The proposed Hyperloop system will use powerful motors and electromagnets to propel pod-like vehicles along a low pressure tube at near the speed of sound.
This form of transport – known as magnetic propulsion – is already used by some trains in Japan and China, which reach high speeds by reducing friction with the track.
What sets the Hyperloop apart is the lack of air-drag on pods. This could be eliminated by having vehicles travel in near vacuum conditions, enabling them to go much faster than is currently possible.
Elon Musk, founder of automotive innovator Tesla and space exploration company SpaceX, proposed the idea for a low friction tube-based transportation system in 2013.
Since then, he has opened up the idea to innovators around the world, hosting an initial competition in Texas in January, 2016.
The Edinburgh team had success at this stage, winning an award for its technical designs. This led to the team’s entry into the second edition of the SpaceX competition, with finals to take place in summer 2017.
While the first installment of the completion focused on design, the second is about pure speed. If they meet the necessary requirements, the team will be invited to test its designs on a track at the SpaceX headquarters in California.
Since its inception, the team has grown and now includes over 50 students studying subjects ranging from engineering and physics to business and law.
The group now also includes a commercialization team, which has submitted a business feasibility study for a London to Edinburgh Hyperloop route to a separate, non-technical competition.
This competition is providing students with an opportunity to be a part of a culture of innovation that could change the way people travel for decades to come. The high maintenance costs and difficulties of upgrading the UK’s dated transport system is giving innovators an opportunity to potentially offer a better approach.