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Reddit based team’s rPod wins Hyperloop award. The story behind rLoop

The rPod, winner of the “Innovation Award” at Elon Musk’s Hyperloop competition, is proof the time when you needed a garage to start a revolutionizing project is long gone. Now all you need is a subreddit and people all over the world converging on your idea.

In 2015, a user in Reddit’s r/SpaceX suggested that redditors form their own team for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition. Recently, rLoop, the international group that formed on Reddit, won the “Innovation Award” at the Hyperloop pod competition with rPod.

“Someone posted a post on Reddit asking “Hey guys! Do you want to do a Hyperloop team? I saw the post when it just got posted and said yeah, sure, count me in, not expecting anything at all,” Thomas Lambog, Engineering Lead from Belgium remembers.

Other teams competing were from universities or high-schools, so the rLoop team needed on “office”. And they found one on the Slack platform, where they talked about all their ideas.

“We came up with our Hyperloop design and we ended up being invited out to Texas for the Hyperloop Design Weekend,” Richard Behiel, from the US, says.

“Now we need to build this thing,” Thomas Lambog said they realised back then.

So they did – and it’s called rPod.

Between then and now, the rLoop team added tens of new members, reaching over a hundred with some more active than others.

“It’s almost like having one hundred eyes looking over one problem and then someone says: ok, I’ve done something similar, this is the solution,” Ilyas Vali, Assistan Project Manager says.

What makes the rPod special

Like most teams competing in the Hyperloop competition, rLoop decided to use Halbach array magnetic levitation engines instead of the initially proposed air bearing system.

In a Halbach array, permanent magnets are arranged so that they nearly double the size of the magnetic field on one side of the array while cancelling the field to near zero on the opposing side. Often, field confinement is a problem building magnetic structures, but this array ideally produces no stray field, averting the issue.

In application for the Hyperloop, the magnetic field produced by the Halbach array creates “lift” by repelling the aluminum guide track on the floor of the Hyperloop tunnel after the pod reaches speed. It’s a passive system requiring an initial propulsion to create its field effect.

However, unlike some of the university teams they were competing against, the rLoop team chose to use an active Halbach array enabled by Arx Pax’s Magnetic Field Architecture technology. In this system, the magnets are spun at various RPM to create an opposing magnetic field in a conductive substrate and lift the pod while it is stationary. Spinning the magnets to create lift requires tremendous initial energy and generates significant levels of heat. TE thermocouple sensors in the Halbach array trigger a CO2 cooling system to maintain proper heat levels. TE sensors and connectors, such as a Kilovac relay, in the electric power system help keep the high amperage system safe. The team has also used force sensors to measure the lift of the hover engine.

While it takes more energy to lift the pod off the rail, it’s quickly offset by minimizing the energy required for the propulsion system.

Once accelerated to its cruising speed of approximately 700 miles per hour, the rPod will maintain its velocity almost indefinitely in its near friction-less environment. Contrast sensors will track fluorescent tape markers to calculate position and speed. Distance sensors in the nose cone will alert the pod when it needs to slow down from approximately 700 miles per hour.

The rPod is powered by two battery packs made from multiple battery modules, each module consisting of six Lithium Polymer battery cells and capable of 75.6 V and 420 Amps of current. The battery system is 1-fault tolerant. Extensive testing went into this design starting with the battery cells. Each individual cell was qualified by doing low and high current discharges. TE provided the resistors and circuitry for discharging to 3.3 V from 4.2 V for an individual cell.

Hyperloop pod competition winners

  • Delft University: Highest Overall Score; Design and Construction Award
  • Technical University of Munich (WARR Hyperloop): Fastest Pod Award
  • MIT: Safety and Reliability Award
  • University of Maryland (UMD Loop): Performance and Operations Award
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (Team Badgerloop): Pod Innovation Award
  • rLoop (the only team unaffiliated with a school): Pod Innovation Award

The competition made rLoop’s win even more significant, Denis Tudor, control, told EvoNews.

“Delft is one of the best tech universities in Europe. Both Delft and MIT had founds for their projects from the beginning and had more time to work on their pods. When they were already presenting their pods rLoop was still running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo,” Denis Tudor said.

Even if the rPod didn’t race through the Hyperloop tunnel near SpaceX‘s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on January 27-29, 2017, the project was praised by jury members, including Elon Musk and Steve Davis.

What is the Hyperloop

Hyperloop is a conceptual, high-speed transportation system initially proposed by Elon Musk. The concept consists of passenger and cargo pods being propelled at up to 760 mph in a low pressure tube using sustainable and cost-efficient energy. To accelerate its development, SpaceX hosted a competition for engineering teams to design their own hyperloop pods and test them at their facility in Hawthorne, California.

On November 8, 2016, Hyperloop One, a company in Los Angeles, California, that is leading the effort to commercialize the Hyperloop for moving passengers and/or cargo, announced it had signed a deal with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to conduct a number of feasibility studies on potential passenger and cargo Hyperloop routes in the United Arab Emirates. Hyperloop One also released its first system designs in collaboration with the Bjarke Ingels Group.

The first full-system test of Hyperloop One’s technology will begin in early 2017.

John Beckett