Cars Are So Yesterday: MUN Team Making a New Means of Transportation

We've all seen a futuristic movie, where human-carrying capsules are shuttled through vacuum tubes, faster than any car has ever gone. Zoom zip, and you're there.

We’ve all seen a futuristic movie, where human-carrying capsules are shuttled through vacuum tubes, faster than any car has ever gone. Zoom zip, and you’re there.

A group of bright students from 3 universities have come together to help make this happen. Roughly 50% of the team is composed of local students; 13 from MUN and 1 from College of the North Atlantic.

It’s called Hyperloop. The concept was introduced and popularized by the rich Canadian visionary Elon Musk in 2013. Hyperloop aims to provide a cheaper, more efficient, and more sustainable alternative to existing means of transportation. The end goal is to have Hyperloop pods go from Point A to Point B at 700 MPH.

Musk’s company, SpaceX, is hosting a competition for students from all over the world to get involved by building Hyperloop test vehicles. Our province is the only Canadian province with a team in the running.

MUN’s team is doing just that. They say it involves “levitating train-like vehicles, called pods, that travel through low pressure vacuum tubes. We aim to prove the viability of air based levitation, for use in high-speed applications, by building a prototype Hyperloop pod capable of reaching 200mph.”

The provincial government just gave them roughly 15K to help the project along. “Hyperloop started as a revolutionary idea and could possibly become the future of transportation,” says Christopher Mitchelmore, Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. “It’s amazing to know our students from Memorial University are involved in this game-changing transportation research.”

The first ever Hyperloop pod does not exist, the race is on, and we could win. “It’s a difficult challenge because no one’s done it yet,” the team says, “and a lot of the technology to do this hasn’t been developed yet.”

Yet they’re surging onwards to be the first, and their aim is altruistic. “If people had access to transportation that is not only faster, but more affordable, and more sustainable, it would just fundamentally make the world a much better place.”

Their pod is 20 feet long and weighs 2000 pounds. That makes it a pain to lug around, but helps it achieve the desired speed of 200 mph, through SpaceX’s mile-long hyperloop test track in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX’s first competition took place in January 2017, and Competition II is set for the 25th-27th of August 2017.

“Air bearings are the core technology we are developing for Competition II,” the team says. “While air bearings are already utilized in low speed industrial applications, they’ve never been explored in high-speed contexts. Low-friction levitation is critical to the hyperloop concept, and we’re trying to prove that air bearings are the most efficient, economical, scalable and sustainable option.”

Their system is being built so that passengers and cargo being zipped along at 200 MPH will “experience the smoothest and safest journey possible.”

Win or lose at the competition, team members from Paradigm Hyperloop have had the opportunity to work for Apple, Tesla, Reflexion Medical, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and many other giant, innovative companies.

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