From Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne [EPFL-École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne] (CH): “EPFL now has its own Hyperloop test track”

From Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne [EPFL-École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne] (CH)

Anne-Muriel Brouet


Engineers at EPFL’s DESL lab, working in association with EPFL spin-off Swisspod, have built a Hyperloop test track on the Lausanne campus. They will use the loop – a large vacuum tube for ultra-high-speed travel – to test a linear induction motor. The research is being funded by an Innosuisse grant.

Hyperloops-viewed by some as the fifth mode of transport-stand to revolutionize long-distance travel. They offer a cleaner alternative to planes and are faster than trains. Hyperloop projects are already under way in the Nevada desert; Port of Hamburg; Toulouse; the Near East; and China. And yesterday, a team of engineers from EPFL and Swisspod unveiled a circular test track on the Lausanne campus – Europe’s first operational model Hyperloop. It will be used to study new ideas for the loop’s structure and pod and assess its viability for ultra-high-speed mass transportation.

The test track – 40 m in diameter and 120 m long – was 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 depending on the testing objectives and results. 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. Its numerous high-tech sensors will give engineers key information about their design’s properties. “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.”

The pod’s components were produced using DESL’s industrial-scale 3D printer, which can fabricate objects up to 45 cm in size in a range of materials (such as ABS, PLA, PET, nylon, carbon, Flex, polystyrene and Laywood). Special software will be used to replicate the power grid’s behavior in real time, like a digital twin.

Cutting power use with a linear induction motor

One of the big challenges of a Hyperloop is its propulsion system. To keep costs down, the energy required for propulsion in the EPFL design will not come from the track – as it does for Maglev trains – but will be carried by the pods themselves. They will be equipped with linear induction motors, although further development work is needed to reduce the pods’ power consumption. The target is to reach a power consumption of 10–50 Wh/km per passenger (depending on how long the trip is), compared with 97–100 Wh/km for electric cars and 515–600 Wh/km for planes. The development work will be carried out under the LIMITLESS project (for Linear Induction Motor drIve for Traction and LEvitation in Sustainable hyperloop Systems) involving Swisspod, DESL and the Vaud School of Management and Engineering (HEIG-VD), with the support of an Innosuisse grant. Once the low-power linear induction motor is ready, it will be tested on the EPFL track.

“This project provides a great opportunity for Swisspod to join forces with EPFL’s world-class engineering skills,” says Denis Tudor, CEO of Swisspod and a PhD student at EPFL. “By combining those skills with our own business and engineering capabilities, we hope to develop a system that will reach the market in four to five years.” Georgios Sarantakos, who heads up the project at DESL, adds: “Both DESL and Swisspod aim to use innovation as a vector for positive change and develop a feasible transportation system that can bring real value to the local community and deliver significant benefits to society as a whole.”

Multidisciplinary projects
Close to 20 students from various EPFL schools 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.


#EPFLoop: Augustin Mohr, électronique de puissance

#EPFLoop: Iléane Lefevre, energy and storage system

#EPFLoop: Bassem Alsakhawy, mechanical structure

#EPFLoop: Anis Hassan, leader subteam mechanical engineering

See the full article here .


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The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne [EPFL-École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne] (CH) is a research institute and university in Lausanne, Switzerland, that specializes in natural sciences and engineering. It is one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, and it has three main missions: education, research and technology transfer.

The QS World University Rankings ranks EPFL(CH) 14th in the world across all fields in their 2020/2021 ranking, whereas Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranks EPFL(CH) as the world’s 19th best school for Engineering and Technology in 2020.

EPFL(CH) is located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland; the sister institution in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zürich [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich)](CH) . Associated with several specialized research institutes, the two universities form the Domain of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Domain) [ETH-Bereich; Domaine des Écoles polytechniques fédérales] (CH) which is directly dependent on the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research. In connection with research and teaching activities, EPFL(CH) operates a nuclear reactor CROCUS; a Tokamak Fusion reactor; a Blue Gene/Q Supercomputer; and P3 bio-hazard facilities.

The roots of modern-day EPFL(CH) can be traced back to the foundation of a private school under the name École spéciale de Lausanne in 1853 at the initiative of Lois Rivier, a graduate of the École Centrale Paris (FR) and John Gay the then professor and rector of the Académie de Lausanne. At its inception it had only 11 students and the offices was located at Rue du Valentin in Lausanne. In 1869, it became the technical department of the public Académie de Lausanne. When the Académie was reorganised and acquired the status of a university in 1890, the technical faculty changed its name to École d’ingénieurs de l’Université de Lausanne. In 1946, it was renamed the École polytechnique de l’Université de Lausanne (EPUL). In 1969, the EPUL was separated from the rest of the University of Lausanne and became a federal institute under its current name. EPFL(CH), like ETH Zürich(CH), is thus directly controlled by the Swiss federal government. In contrast, all other universities in Switzerland are controlled by their respective cantonal governments. Following the nomination of Patrick Aebischer as president in 2000, EPFL(CH) has started to develop into the field of life sciences. It absorbed the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) in 2008.

In 1946, there were 360 students. In 1969, EPFL(CH) had 1,400 students and 55 professors. In the past two decades the university has grown rapidly and as of 2012 roughly 14,000 people study or work on campus, about 9,300 of these being Bachelor, Master or PhD students. The environment at modern day EPFL(CH) is highly international with the school attracting students and researchers from all over the world. More than 125 countries are represented on the campus and the university has two official languages, French and English.


EPFL is organised into eight schools, themselves formed of institutes that group research units (laboratories or chairs) around common themes:

School of Basic Sciences (SB, Jan S. Hesthaven)

Institute of Mathematics (MATH, Victor Panaretos)
Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering (ISIC, Emsley Lyndon)
Institute of Physics (IPHYS, Harald Brune)
European Centre of Atomic and Molecular Computations (CECAM, Ignacio Pagonabarraga Mora)
Bernoulli Center (CIB, Nicolas Monod)
Biomedical Imaging Research Center (CIBM, Rolf Gruetter)
Interdisciplinary Center for Electron Microscopy (CIME, Cécile Hébert)
Max Planck-EPFL Centre for Molecular Nanosciences and Technology (CMNT, Thomas Rizzo)
Swiss Plasma Center (SPC, Ambrogio Fasoli)
Laboratory of Astrophysics (LASTRO, Jean-Paul Kneib)

School of Engineering (STI, Ali Sayed)

Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEL, Giovanni De Micheli)
Institute of Mechanical Engineering (IGM, Thomas Gmür)
Institute of Materials (IMX, Michaud Véronique)
Institute of Microengineering (IMT, Olivier Martin)
Institute of Bioengineering (IBI, Matthias Lütolf)

School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC, Claudia R. Binder)

Institute of Architecture (IA, Luca Ortelli)
Civil Engineering Institute (IIC, Eugen Brühwiler)
Institute of Urban and Regional Sciences (INTER, Philippe Thalmann)
Environmental Engineering Institute (IIE, David Andrew Barry)

School of Computer and Communication Sciences (IC, James Larus)

Algorithms & Theoretical Computer Science
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
Computational Biology
Computer Architecture & Integrated Systems
Data Management & Information Retrieval
Graphics & Vision
Human-Computer Interaction
Information & Communication Theory
Programming Languages & Formal Methods
Security & Cryptography
Signal & Image Processing

School of Life Sciences (SV, Gisou van der Goot)

Bachelor-Master Teaching Section in Life Sciences and Technologies (SSV)
Brain Mind Institute (BMI, Carmen Sandi)
Institute of Bioengineering (IBI, Melody Swartz)
Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC, Douglas Hanahan)
Global Health Institute (GHI, Bruno Lemaitre)
Ten Technology Platforms & Core Facilities (PTECH)
Center for Phenogenomics (CPG)
NCCR Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases (NCCR-SYNAPSY)

College of Management of Technology (CDM)

Swiss Finance Institute at EPFL (CDM-SFI, Damir Filipovic)
Section of Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship (CDM-PMTE, Daniel Kuhn)
Institute of Technology and Public Policy (CDM-ITPP, Matthias Finger)
Institute of Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship (CDM-MTEI, Ralf Seifert)
Section of Financial Engineering (CDM-IF, Julien Hugonnier)

College of Humanities (CDH, Thomas David)

Human and social sciences teaching program (CDH-SHS, Thomas David)

EPFL Middle East (EME, Dr. Franco Vigliotti)[62]

Section of Energy Management and Sustainability (MES, Prof. Maher Kayal)

In addition to the eight schools there are seven closely related institutions

Swiss Cancer Centre
Center for Biomedical Imaging (CIBM)
Centre for Advanced Modelling Science (CADMOS)
École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL)
Campus Biotech
Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering
Swiss National Supercomputing Centre