Going into hyperdrive

Members of the hyperloop team with their faculty and industry advisers. (Courtesy Graeme Klim)

Members of the hyperloop team with their faculty and industry advisors. (Courtesy Graeme Klim)

In the future when you are hurtled through tubes from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you’ll be able to thank a team of Ryerson engineers for helping you arrive safely.

Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system that was proposed by Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla Motors and the aerospace firm SpaceX.

The concept consists of massive tubes, connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, with pods that can carry passengers at speeds over 1,100 km/h. This would reduce the six-hour car ride between the two cities to 35 minutes.

“Hyperloop has the potential to be a revolutionary fifth mode of transportation adding to the existing four — cars, trains, planes and boats,” said Graeme Klim, a master’s student in aerospace engineering at Ryerson.

Klim is part of a team of engineering students developing a deployable wheel subsystem that would be attached to the pod. The pods will propel along the length of the tubes by using magnetic accelerators and would be surrounded by a cushion of air.

Hyperloop could be described as a combination of the supersonic Concorde jet and an air hockey table.

(Courtesy Graeme Klim)

(Courtesy Graeme Klim)

The design, which the team has already made a prototype of, are wheels that would be found on the bottom of a pod.

They would be used from 0-200 km/h to get the pod up to speed and in emergency situations if the air pressure in the tube was lost.

The team developed the prototype in preparation for the SpaceX competition that was held at Texas A&M University in January.

When Klim first heard about the competition, he started asking around his group of friends to see if anyone else was interested in creating a team.

“As a small team of three we are highly motivated (and) willing to step out of (our) comfort zones to assist one another in fields which we are sometimes not even familiar with,” said Klim, the design lead for the project.

The team includes PhD student Min Prasad Adhikari, optimization and control lead, and master’s student Mohammad Moeid Elahikahouker, analysis lead. Seyed M. Hashemi, a Ryerson aerospace engineering professor, is the team’s faculty adviser.

Klim said that they have had a long planning phase, with the team brainstorming multiple ideas since September 2015. It wasn’t until a month before the competition that they decided to commit to the prototype of their current wheel subsystem.

The commitment they made paid off as the team ended up winning the subsystem innovation award at the SpaceX competition, where students from over 20 countries participated.

“I think the reason we won the award was because a lot of the other teams adapted existing components and integrated them into a new structure. We created our components mostly from scratch,” Klim said.

They received an email following the competition thanking them for attending and asking the subsystem teams to start building their prototypes. SpaceX also suggested that the subsystem teams collaborate with a pod team to test their designs.

Klim and his team are looking to collaborate with a pod team from the United States and are currently talking with one in Texas.

If a team from the United States doesn’t pan out, there is a possibility to test their wheel subsystem with a team from McMaster University in Hamilton.

“That way we could test it here close to Toronto and potentially take the rig with us to California to demonstrate our subsystem,” Klim said.

In August, the next stage of the competition will begin in California at the SpaceX headquarters, where teams will test their designs.

Klim and his team are working with one of their main sponsors, Safran Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, to create their subsystem in the next month or so. The cost of building is dependent on the pod that they build for.

“I know history will look back to this past year and recognize the hard work that all of the student teams have put into the project that will ultimately one day lead to a successful Hyperloop system,” Klim said.

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