Engineers at EPFL’s DESL lab, working in association with EPFL spin-off Swisspod, have built a Hyperloop test track on the Lausanne campus in Switzerland. They will use the loop – a large vacuum tube for ultra-high-speed travel – to test a linear induction motor, an electric motor that can produce a levitation effect.
Hyperloops, viewed by some as the fifth mode of transport, could revolutionise long-distance travel by offering a cleaner alternative to planes that’s faster than trains.
Several hyperloop projects are already under way in the Nevada desert, Hamburg, Toulouse and China. The recently unveiled EPFL and Swisspod test track on the Lausanne campus is Europe’s first operational model hyperloop. It will be used to study new ideas for the loop’s structure and pod and assess the viability of the technology for ultra-high-speed mass transportation.
The test track is 40 m in diameter and 120 m long and is based on technology developed by EPFL’s Distributed Electrical Systems Laboratory (DESL), headed by Mario Paolone. It’s made out of aluminum alloy and designed to simulate an infinitely long hyperloop, with pods of various sizes. Its performance in terms of the propulsion and levitation system and kinematics will be tested under vacuum at a scale of 1:12 that eventually could go up to 1:6.
The vacuum tube is equipped with numerous high-tech sensors that will give engineers information about their properties of test prototypes. “With this reduced-scale test track, we will be able to study the fundamental aspects of our pod’s electromagnetic propulsion and levitation system,” says Paolone. “We’ll use the results to enhance the pod design and make the loop operate more efficiently.”
Close to 20 EPFL students are taking part in EPFLoop as part of their semester or Master’s projects. “In prior years, our main goal was to break speed records at international Hyperloop competitions,” says Georgios Sarantakos, the project head at DESL. “But now we want to define certain parameters and improve efficiency so that one day we can build a full-scale track.” Meeting that goal will require pushing the boundaries of technology in a range of areas, including batteries, power electronics, propulsion systems, heat management, avionics, design, tubular structures and data management.
EPFL press release (in English)