Traveling at the speed of sound? The inventors of the Hyperloop believe that this will be possible someday. We would then travel in pods through a tube in a partial vacuum at speeds of up to 1,200 kilometers per hour. Engineers around the world are working on the technology.
During the night from Sunday to Monday, students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) once again won the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition near Los Angeles, a speed competition for pod prototypes. Equipped with more than 420 Infineon chips, the pod reached 463.5 km/h. This speed would shorten the trip from Munich to Hamburg to about one hour and 15 minutes, for example. The team left its competitors lagging well behind. Their pod was more than 200 km/h faster than the one that came in second.
“Four wins in a row in the Hyperloop Competition underscore the enormous technological expertise of the students,” says Hans Adlkofer, Vice President Automotive Systems at Infineon. “They also highlight the major role that precise and robust electronics will play in the future of mobility. We are excited for the TUM Hyperloop team and congratulate it on its fascinating success.” Infineon sponsored the TUM team and supplied key components. In addition, the students gave the pod electronics the final touch at Infineon’s El Segundo location near Los Angeles.
The pod’s eight electric motors are controlled by 288 power semiconductors from Infineon. These chips control the flow of current into the motor with thousands of switching processes per second. This creates the rapidly changing magnetic fields that drive the motor. In addition, 24 sensors from Infineon deliver information about the rotor position in the motors. This data is required for precise timing of the switching processes.
As well as in the drive, the TUM Hyperloop also uses 112 power components from Infineon in the main battery switches. With their help, the flow of current from the battery can be switched off in a fraction of a second. This is required, for example, for maintenance work or in case of accidents, to protect people from electric shocks.
The Hyperloop concept comes from SpaceX founder Elon Musk. He presented the idea in 2013 as a faster and cheaper alternative to conventional means of transport. It should also considerably reduce energy consumption, since there is very little air resistance in the partial vacuum tubes and the pods move with almost no friction thanks to magnetic levitation technology.
The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition took now place for the fourth time. The TUM Hyperloop team – previously known as WARR Hyperloop – presented the fastest pod each time. This year, it beat a total of 20 other teams from the U.S., Asia, Australia, and Europe. For the final run, three other teams qualified: Delft Hyperloop from Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), EPFLoop from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland) and Swissloop from ETH Zurich (Switzerland).
Pictures (for download at TUM Hyperloop):
- Cheering team TUM Hyperloop and their pod.
- The TUM Hyperloop pod includes more than 420 chips from Infineon.
Selected routes and theoretical trip duration at 463.5 km/h
(linear distance; acceleration and braking phases not counted)
- From Nuremberg to Augsburg as fast as it once took to get to Fürth: In the 19th century, a trip on Germany’s first railroad line from Nuremberg to Fürth (6.2 km) took about 15 minutes. A pod traveling at 463.5 km/h could almost reach Augsburg in that time (121 km).
- In three and a half minutes to the “Ruhr derby”: The roughly 28-kilometer trip between the stadiums of German soccer clubs Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 would take 3 minutes and 37 seconds in such a pod.
- To a summit meeting in less than two hours: 877 kilometers between the Federal Chancellery in Berlin and the Elysée Palace in Paris – or just one hour and 54 minutes with the pod.
- From Silicon Valley to Wall Street in less than nine hours: The 4,130 kilometers between San Francisco and New York would take eight hours and 55 minutes with the pod.
- Beijing to Shanghai in little over two hours: The pod would need two hours and 19 minutes to travel the almost 1,070 kilometers between China’s largest cities. At present, the trip takes almost five hours – admittedly with intermediate stops.