Climate change, environmental litter and population explosion – the world is facing mighty challenges. Alternative solutions for sustainability are a “must”. Some exciting approaches can be found at the Techtextil Special Area, entitled “Urban Living – City of the Future”.
According to the United Nations the number of megacities, with more than ten million people each, will grow world-wide from 32 today to 43 by 2030. Most of their inhabitants will probably want to drive from A to B by car, of which since 2010 more than a billion have been jetting over the streets world-wide. The problem: even now the WHO (World Health Organisation) sees in motor traffic the fastest growing source of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Alternative transport methods are therefore a must – or better: an (Elon) Musk.
In 2015 this visionary technologist launched a competition for his hyperloop project. In future, under this project, capsules would carry people in underground vacuum tubes, like a sort of pneumatic post, at up to 1,200 kilometres an hour – faster and more environmentally friendly than an aircraft, cheaper than a train. Since then hundreds of teams have presented their prototypes in a 3.2 kilometre long tunnel underneath Los Angeles. Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX also has its headquarters in the city. Meanwhile only some 20 teams are still in the running, including that of the Technical University of Delft, which is showcasing the latest version of its Hyperloop Pod at this year’s Techtextil Special Area, “Urban Living, City of the Future”. The concept was created in collaboration with Creative Holland.
Fibres in the pipes
“We are forty in our team, and we do everything ourselves, from design, to production, to marketing”, explain TU Delft students Chiana Ardemani and Asja Föllmi. Anyone familiar with textiles who looks at the pod will immediately notice the characteristic honeycomb structure of the chassis and battery cover: carbon-fibre reinforced plastic is at play here, also called carbon. There is a good reason why the “Delfties” use this material: “The hyperloop pipes are meant to be void of air, so that the pods can travel faster, but a perfect vacuum does not exist”, explains Ardemani. By means of carbon you can minimise braking friction; moreover carbon is just lighter than aluminium, steel or titanium. On precisely these grounds the professional technologists at Formula 1 rely greatly on this material: chassis, flanks, suspension, monocoque and engine covering – these racing cars consist largely of this ultra-light fibre-composite material.
The 21st of July is a red-letter day on the Hyperloop team’s calendar: it is then that the Dutch team, jointly with the other remaining teams, will be presenting their latest pod version, under the Argus eyes off the SpaceX engineers. “Up to 120 safety tests must then be passed”, says Asja Föllmi. But it is also a matter of speed: “We intend to reach 500 kilometres an hour”. If they did this, the Dutch team would overtake the competing team from the Technical University of Munich, which holds the speed record up till now, with 467 kilometres an hour.