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February 16, 2017

In the summer of 2016, MDC Vacuum Products, LLC, was approached by the University of Wisconsin–Madison BadgerLoop hyperloop pod team (badgerloop.com) with a sponsorship opportunity. BadgerLoop is a student organization team that was created in preparation for the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition. MDC Vacuum Products and their Insulator Seal (ISI) division, were thrilled to donate the components the team needed. MDC’s contribution provided BadgerLoop with the means to create a versatile vacuum testing environment, in which they could verify the operation of their pod’s numerous power system components in a vacuum. With MDC’s help, BadgerLoop was able to design and fabricate a successful, competitive pod, for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, while also helping lay the foundation for what could be the next major transportation industry.

Hyperloop

Hyperloop is a lightning-fast transportation technology that will completely revolutionize modern transit. Since its proposal by Elon Musk in 2013, the innovative idea has evolved into a clearly influential technology of our near-future. Ultimately, the design consists of a levitating pod traveling at nearly 760 miles per hour through an evacuated/vacuum steel tube.

The low vacuum pressure minimizes drag forces, while contact-less magnetic levitation further diminishes energy loss. The combination of these features poise Hyperloop as the new world-wide standard for high-speed transportation efficiency.

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Unlike most vehicles, the BadgerLoop pod will be traveling in a low vacuum environment of approximately 1 Torr. This low pressure can be dangerous to their electrical system for several reasons, including the lack of convective cooling for hot components, and the potential outgassing of wet electrolytic capacitors. To test their solutions to these problems, they needed a versatile vacuum testing environment with a variety of power and signal feedthrough options. In June of 2016, a local physics laboratory donated a large cylindrical chamber to BadgerLoop, but without any flanges or ports included. This was when the team reached out to MDC, and with their generous component donation, they were able to create a fully functional vacuum chamber with the following features:

  • 12” Door for Ease of Access
  • 2 Medium Sized Viewing Ports
  • 8 Power Feedthrough Channels Each Capable of Carrying 150 Amps
  • DSUB25 Flange for Data Signals and Low Voltage Power
  • Custom BadgerLoop “Vacdaq” with Ambient Pressure/Temperature Readings and Custom DAQ Configurations for Different Tests
  • Operating Chamber Pressure of 1 Torr

MDC provided BadgerLoop with all the vacuum hardware and components they required to assemble their vacuum test system. The hardware included MDC vacuum flanges, gaskets, a Quick-Access vacuum chamber door, fittings, ISI electrical feedthroughs, and ISI viewports.

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Once the vacuum chamber was complete, the BadgerLoop team used it to verify numerous power system components. Their first test was a coupled-motor test, where they had 2 of their brushed DC motors coupled at the shaft in a torque-speed regenerative configuration.

They used a small power supply to get the motors up to speed, and measured the armature temperatures after the motors reached rated current. After this test, they moved on to discharging a lithium polymer pouch cell at 200A inside the chamber.

BadgerLoop Vacuum Chamber - Test Chamber - Hyperloop - MDC Vacuum Products

Other components tested were motor controllers, fans, relays, contactors, diodes, and fuses. Using the MDC chamber, they could identify pressure-related problems and test their unique solutions.

“Here at BadgerLoop we are very proud to represent MDC in the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition. With their continued support and generous donations, we have been able to test our Pod’s electrical system to a high degree of accuracy. We look forward to a continued partnership with MDC as the Hyperloop evolves and new challenges present themselves.” – Eric Amikam, Electrical Team Lead at BadgerLoop, University of Wisconsin-Madison

hyperloop badgerloop vacuum chamber

After the UW–Madison BadgerLoop team finished final testing and assembly of their pod they went on to compete against 30 teams from colleges and universities from around the world in SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod Competition, which was held January 27-29, 2017, just outside the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

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The purpose of the competition was to help accelerate the development of functional prototypes and encourage student innovation by challenging university students to design and build the best high-speed pod.

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This competition was the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The teams put their pods through an array of tests, which was made possible through SpaceX’s Hyperloop system. SpaceX built a 1-mile long test track for the competition.

hyperloop spacex tube vacuum chamber

While the track is not to scale with an actual hyperloop system, like the one under construction by Hyperloop One in North Las Vegas, it is still a functional hyperloop tube. It can create a low vacuum from 1 Torr (0.02 psi) to 760 Torr (14.7 psi-pressure at sea level).

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The finished BadgerLoop pod came in at 15-feet-long and 2,100-pounds.

BadgerLoop Pod 1

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The BadgerLoop team brought home one of two Innovation Awards, impressed SpaceX engineers with the maturity of their engineering capability, and attracted Elon Musk to sit in their pod. The latter was an especially proud accomplishment since they were the only pod capable of fitting a full-sized human being. All things considered, they were the only team to offer anyone the opportunity to experience the nearing future.

Elon Musk in BadgerLoop Pod at SpaceX Hyperloop Competition

Based on the high-quality submissions and overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding the competition, SpaceX is moving forward with a second installment of the competition: Hyperloop Pod Competition II, which will culminate in a second competition in Summer 2017 at SpaceX’s Hyperloop track. Hyperloop Competition II will be focused on a single criterion: maximum speed. The second competition is open to new student teams interested in competing on the track, as well as to existing student teams who have already built and tested Pods to further refine their designs.

BadgerLoop Pod 2

MDC Vacuum Products, LLC, an ISO 9001:2008 registered company, has been committed to providing high-quality and competitively priced vacuum components for over 40 years. MDC combines this extensive experience with dedication to quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction to consistently meet and exceed client’s expectations. They are here for all your vacuum needs, from standard valves, gaskets, and seals, to custom made unique vacuum chambers.

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Do you have any vacuum product needs or sponsorship opportunities? Let MDC show you why they are an industry leader and how they can drive your process forward!

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