A Journey by Pneumatic Tube

The Hyperloop could revolutionize rail transport. What was once an option for urgent mailings is now being developed to potentially transport people and goods in future at almost the speed of sound—capsules could be whizzed through vacuum tubes at speeds of around 1,200 kilometers per hour. The most successful prototype to date was developed with carbon fiber materials from SGL Carbon.

Riding a train at the speed of sound: the Hyperloop is an idea from Tesla founder Elon Musk. It’s based on the concept of pneumatic tubes, like the old-style mailing system. High-speed trains will be transported at extreme speeds through a tube filled with a partial vacuum, an idea that has long since stopped being science fiction. Students at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have already sent their test model of the so-called “pod”—that is to say, the prototype of the possible later cabin capsule— racing at 467 kilometers per hour through the experimental tube on the premises of SpaceX, Musk’s space company, in Los Angeles.

The Hyperloop pod is an up-and-coming project with global significance and great potential in the field of future-oriented mobility.

Dennis Baumann, Head of Market Segment Industrial Applications and Marketing of the Business Unit Composites - Fibers & Materials at SGL Carbon

The TUM team used carbon fibers from SGL Carbon for the prototypes. Along with supplying the carbon fiber materials, the company also provided the students of the Scientific Workgroup for Rocket Technology and Spaceflight (WARR) at TUM with the expertise, resources and equipment.

This newest speed record marks the third time in a row the WARR team has won the “Hyperloop Pod Competition” launched by Elon Musk; some thirty student workgroups from all over the world take part. While the first competition was about an overall working concept for a Hyperloop Pod, the main focus of the second competition was on the speed achieved, with the Munich team victorious at 324 kilometers per hour.

Facts & Figures

Speed of the Hyperloop prototype pod
kilometers per hour
Potential travel time from Munich to Berlin
Capacity of the Hyperloop passenger cabin

The third competition was once again about the maximum speed, but this time only pods with their own propulsion systems were allowed to compete. Only three teams made it into the finals, including the TUM team. Although the winning speed of 467 kilometers per hour is still a good way off from the speed of sound (1234.8 kilometers per hour), the dream of a train ride from Munich to Berlin within 35 minutes is coming nearer. The Hyperloop makes use of the pneumatic tube principle developed in the nineteenth century: once the train has initially accelerated, the vacuum inside the tube means that almost no more energy is required for it to reach its destination. If this innovative means of transport can be realized in an economically viable manner, it would be faster and more environmental-friendly than air travel and simultaneously cheaper than rail.

Head of Market Segment Industrial Applications and Marketing of the Business Unit Composites - Fibers & Materials at SGL Carbon Dennis Baumann, is excited about the development of the Hyperloop. “We are very happy to support the students with our expertise and our materials. Much like in our customer projects, the focus with the young university team is on working together as partners and developing integrated solutions,” he says. SGL also works closely with TUM on more than just the Hyperloop project. For more than eight years the company has been supporting the Carbon Composites endowed professorship (LCC), which is focused on the integrated study and advancement of fiber-reinforced composites and their applications.

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