Upstream and Downstream of a Hyperloop Pod

If you’re a regular subscriber of the ANSYS blog, you’ve probably already heard about Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Pod Competition. Texas Guadaloop is a team from the University of Texas at Austin that was chosen to participate in this Hyperloop Design Weekend Competition back in late January among 150 other teams after SpaceX accepted our preliminary Design package.

From the beginning of our design iteration, Guadaloop has been committed to creating a simple and executable design. One of the major challenges we encountered in the external configuration of our pod design was determining the aerodynamic viability of propelling our pod through a tube. With the elimination of a compressor in our design, the Kantrowitz limit needed to be actively combated.

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This resulted in a low pod height, to help reduce drag build up in front of the vehicle.  To initialize the conditions for our model, we had the tube walls surrounding our pod moving so that we could simulate the motion of the pod without the use of a time consuming and costly dynamic mesh setup. By allowing the appropriate tube length (about an additional half pod length) we were able to simulate the pressure buildup distribution upstream of the pod. Likewise, by extending the length of the tube, we were able to visualize a wake aft of the vehicle.

Several team members have experience in CFD software, including ANSYS Fluent, but creating the model from our own design was a new challenge. With the help of ANSYS Workbench, we were able to import a fluid volume directly from our CAD model, mesh the whole thing in a matter of hours, and set up the CFD model in almost no time, something impossible if we were to use the traditional meshing techniques. Thanks to the resulting CFD, we identified the separation point was sufficiently downstream with the current design but that the area changes in the pod frontal geometry should be carefully considered. This is to avoid separated flow close to the nose, causing a turbulent wake over a significant portion of the pod and increasing overall drag.

Texas Guadaloop’s design is unique among our competitors as we have one of the few designs that aims to prove the efficacy of flexible air bearing technology in high speed applications. As of March 1, we have initiated the process of acquiring commercial off the shelf products through our corporate partnerships to begin building and testing our pod.

Throughout the last few months of team development, we have grown from a segmented conglomerate of individuals with varying and diverse backgrounds to become a cohesive group of well-rounded engineers, marketers, and designers. Being involved in this competition has brought us tremendous opportunities to deal first-hand with suppliers and other technical experts in transportation, manufacturing, and simulation. At Design weekend we were able to meet with SpaceX engineers, political figures, enthused members of the general public, and even our favorite ANSYS representatives to discuss our design and team. The feedback we received that weekend from the many technical gurus involved in bringing this vision to the world of transportation has improved our overall pod design enormously.

Texas Guadaloop and ANSYS’ Gilles Eggenspieler in front of our booth at Design Weekend

Texas Guadaloop and ANSYS’ Gilles Eggenspieler in front of our booth at Design Weekend

Recently, Texas Guadaloop received second place and a $4500 cash prize for our presentation on Clean Technology at UT Austin’s Energy Week 2016 and also continued to pitch our concepts to investors.

As we move into the building and testing phases of our project, we continue to look for investors and supporters of our design. To follow us, you can check out our GoFundMe, team website, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

Break a Pod!

UPDATE: May 19th