EuroTube builds first testing infrastructure for vacuum transportation in Europe

EuroTube is an interdisciplinary team of engineers and scientists who build Europe’s prime public research infrastructure for vacuum transportation. It will allow test and research vehicles to be operated efficiently in an unprecedented target speed regime of 700 to 900 km/h. This is a minimal viable and world-wide yet untouched requirement for the sustainable deployment of vactrain concepts, such as for Hyperloop. The first research facility with a 3km long test track will be built in Valais, Switzerland. It is expected to be the first European test track open to external groups for research, engineering and prototyping and, possibly, the longest in the world at completion. 

Why is a Test Track even needed? 

Today’s SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in Los Angeles can be considered the state-of-the-art in providing infrastructure for university research. However, most participating teams have only one chance per year to validate their pod technologies in a notoriously hyped competition. Many teams travel to the competition in LA, but only a few selected teams can take actual test runs and collect learnings to improve the development for the next year. While the competition’s short availability and limited duration hardly do justice to the overall efforts spent by the talented university teams, such a development pace for vacuum transportation technology is far from optimal and can be improved greatly. Given the additional logistical hassle to ship a pod across the Atlantic, more and more European teams, which were mostly very successful in the last competitions, have expressed their need for better and more scalable infrastructure. 

In the short term, those teams resorted to building their own test track. However, so far all of them neither included the vacuum environment nor a sufficient length to test the actually new innovations required at higher velocities. Therefore it can be concluded that none of today’s tracks are built at a scale that one can physically validate the technologies in performance regimes that show the ability to compete with airplanes – a minimal requirement to benchmark this new mode of transport with real data for any business case out there. 

EuroTube’s public and non-profit purposes focus on innovation in transport and utility infrastructures via incentive-induced R&D contests. The first 3km tube in Switzerland shall provide Europe with a central location that is available for tests throughout the year to enable accelerated development of the technology. 

What is EuroTube? 

The EuroTube Foundation aims to provide a test platform in the form of an accessible test track that meets the demands of universities, startups and industry alike. As a non-profit organisation that provides this service, proprietary development of third parties shall remain protected all while using a shared baseline infrastructure that EuroTube provides. The research focus of EuroTube is not only set on tube development, it includes vacuum technologies and motor designs for a track based acceleration. 

Together with partners, who can either showcase their existing portfolio suitable for this new application or who can keep their new developments under wraps, EuroTube’s research function is modelled on other success stories that employ the same methodology for shared large-scale research infrastructures such as the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva.  

In similar regards to these esteemed European role models, EuroTube’s mission is to establish a world-leading research center and to serve a community with an increasingly powerful and scalable infrastructure for vacuum transportation in Europe. 

Blending principles of academic research and entrepreneurial scrappiness, we cannot wait to hire and empower the next generation of researchers, engineers, educators and entrepreneurs for future European excellence in this field and industry. 

Figure 1. Location of the testing infrastructure in Valais, Switzerland. 

By Eurotube (Manuela Läderach and Aurel Neff), May 2019

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