Using simulation to ensure fast, sustainable and safe hyperloop travel
TUM Hyperloop uses Simcenter Madymo to pass TÜV SÜD passenger safety certification
Technical University of Munich (TUM) - Hyperloop
TUM Hyperloop is an advanced research program based in Munich’s Isar Valley that develops technology to make convenient and sustainable ultra-high-speed transportation a reality.https://tumhyperloop.com/
- Munich, Germany
- Simcenter Products, Simcenter Madymo
- Industry Sector:
- Automotive & transportation
Advancing transportation using a hyperloop system
Thanks to advancements in transportation technology over the last couple of centuries, people can travel further and faster than ever before, broadening their horizons and making it much easier to conduct global business. Despite these advancements, people are still pushing boundaries and finding ways to travel even faster and easier.
One solution is a hyperloop system. A hyperloop relies on magnetic propulsion and low-pressure tubes to move pods through a tunnel at speeds up to 900 kilometers per hour (km/h).
Before Elon Musk renewed interest in it in 2012, Alfred Ely Beach originally coined the term in 1870 with his idea of building pneumatic tubes along the New York underground system. However, we can trace this concept back to 1799 and George Medhurst’s idea of using compressed air as a means of propulsion.
Despite being centuries in the making, we are getting closer to realizing this vision.
Based at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the TUM Hyperloop team combines the experience of professionals and academic leaders with the ingenuity and passion of students. Their mission is to make sustainable, ultra-high-speed transportation possible. To accomplish this mission, they consulted with Claudio Santarelli, an academic business developer for the DACH region, who introduced them to the customer success team of Siemens Digital Industries Software. This included the use of Simcenter™ Madymo™ software and NX™ software, which are part of the Siemens Xcelerator business platform of software, hardware and services.
Proving passenger safety
Having won four SpaceX-led competitions between 2017 and 2019 by building the fastest pods, TUM Hyperloop began its own research project, funded by the Bavarian government, to build a full-scale demonstrator.
“For the competitions, SpaceX built the tube, and we designed our pod for it,” says Gabriele Semino, the project lead at TUM Hyperloop. “Now, we are building the tube and the pod ourselves and at full-scale.”
Since the pod’s speed has been proven, now the team needs to prove its passenger safety. “The tube is just 24 meters long,” says Semino. “But what’s important is the diameter. We have a four-meter-diameter tube and a two-and-a-half-meter-diameter pod inside it. We need to show that the pod we have designed will keep passengers safe.
“We were already using NX as a CAD system for the SpaceX competitions since it could process larger models and was the best option in terms of licensing and support. So, it made sense to continue using it for our new project. However, to prove passenger safety, we needed another solution to simulate full-body movement.”
Finding a full-body simulation solution
To find a full-body simulation solution, Natalia Roda, a team member at TUM Hyperloop, undertook this task for her master’s thesis.
For this, Roda used Simcenter Madymo, an award-winning, multiphysics computer-aided engineering (CAE) software for simulating vehicle occupant and road user safety, which includes precisely correlating crash test dummies and human body models. It combines the power of multibody modeling with finite element details and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) in a single solution.
The multibody concept in Simcenter Madymo has the advantage of being quick and easy to set up as well as having fast simulation times. These factors reduce the time required to learn to use the tool and to find results. “Since the university already had a relationship with Siemens, they were able to show me how easy the Simcenter Madymo dummy models were to position and set up in a study,” says Roda. “With support from Siemens, I could quickly set up and run all the simulations I needed to show that the hyperloop pod would be safe for human occupants.”
For this project, Roda had clear objectives. First, she wanted to analyze the dynamic behavior of a full-scale hyperloop prototype pod that was eight meters long and weighed four tons. Second, to ensure passenger safety, she wanted to evaluate human behavior in various scenarios, including acceleration, deceleration and unexpected events. Finally, she wanted to significantly contribute to the hyperloop certification process by documenting and presenting her simulation and assessment results.
To help the team get up to speed with Simcenter Madymo, the Simcenter 3D customer support team worked closely with Roda in the project’s early stages, providing dedicated support and guidance. Together, they recreated the pod design from the NX design files in Simcenter Madymo so they could add virtual dummies and simulate the effects of the hyperloop pod’s motion.
Roda used the THOR-50M and Hybrid-III-50M dummies from the Simcenter Madymo database to simulate the effects of hyperloop travel on the human body. “We need to understand how acceleration and braking will affect the human body,” says Roda. “The Hybrid-III-50M model was suitable for most of the tests, but we also used the THOR-50M model, as this has additional sensors in the abdomen that would tell us if any injuries would occur when the dummy makes contact with the table.”
Working towards certification
The simulations showed that under normal operation, passengers would not suffer any severe injuries as defined by the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP) and TÜV SÜD safety standards and, therefore, would be safe in the pod.
In initial simulations, the results showed that some passengers could suffer injuries. Although Roda expected this to be a rare occurrence, the goal was to avoid injuries. Thus, she ran tests with modified pod interiors, such as adding elements to prevent passengers from falling out of their seats. These simulations showed that the passengers sustained only minor injuries in the worst-case scenarios.
TUM Hyperloop is working with TÜV SÜD, the German-based authority that provides quality and safety testing across Europe. After gaining certification from TÜV SÜD, the TUM Hyperloop team’s pod design can be approved for use in future hyperloop transport system tests.
The transport of the future
With passenger safety accounted for, the team is focusing on completing the demonstrator and running physical tests to further validate their simulation setups. This will allow them to build a longer track and start running tests at higher speeds with confidence in their models.
“This could revolutionize travel within continents,” says Semino. “We’ll probably have hyperloop traveling at around 900 km/h, which is similar to the speed of an airplane. The biggest difference, however, is that the hubs or stations will be closer to city centers. Imagine how much time you could save if you cut out traveling to the airport and waiting around. It will be fully electric from day one, too. So, there’s an immediate reduction in carbon emissions compared to air transportation.”
In addition to cutting down on air travel, the hyperloop should be beneficial for railways.
"We have good rail networks across Europe; however, capacity is an issue,” says Semino. “Although we could transport goods via the hyperloop, we expect people to be the main users as it will be quicker than traveling by train. This will free up space on the railways for nonurgent goods. Since we can transport greater quantities of goods over railways than passengers, shipping cargo via railway is more profitable.”
However, any new form of transport, especially one that travels at such high speeds, will require convincing regulators of its safety before they invest in it. “Using Simcenter Madymo has enabled us to demonstrate passenger safety without risking lives,” says Semino. “Without Simcenter Madymo, it would be harder to get this project off the ground as there would be too many unknowns. I am sure proving safety before building a physical prototype is a huge benefit for spurring innovation.”
Licenses for the Siemens software were provided in the framework of the Siemens Academic Program, which supports academic institutions and competition teams.