Vibranium, huh? ?>

Vibranium, huh?

The Verge reported today 24 May 2016 that Hyperloop Transportation Technologies will build its Hyperloop capsules from vibranium.  As a PR stunt, it is genius.  What 700 mph vehicle could fail if it’s made from the same material as Marvel Comics’ Captain America’s shield?

A closer read will show that vibranium is a carbon-fiber composite developed in cooperation with C2i, a Slovak producer of composite auto parts.  Dick Alhborn, CEO of HTT went on to describe vibranium as eight times stronger than aluminum and ten times stronger than steel.

International Business Times went on to describe the composite as “five times lighter than steel and 1.5 times lighter than aluminium.”  Materials engineering is never quite that simple.  While a carbon fiber composite has tremendous tensile strength, it is nowhere as impact resistant as a metal.  Ahlborg’s claim that a hyperloop capsule will be ten times safer than an airplane strains credibility.  If we compare hyperloop to general aviation, this might be true.  We have not had a commercial airline fatality in the Unties States since 2009.

Building a capsule to work in 1/1000 the pressure at sea level will be no mean feat.  Boeing builds the 787 from carbon fiber so the choice is logical.  Building a safe hyperloop capsule will be far more difficult than an airliner.

HTT’s competitor, Hyperloop One, has made open air tests of its capsule at a track in Nevada.  A hundred academic teams developed hyperloop capsule plans for a completion.  SpaceX is building a hyperloop test track in Hawthorne, Calif, in preparation for a pod competition in August 2016.  HTT so far has made press releases and granted interviews, but no outsider has seen a design or prototype hardware.  If we don’t see anything soon, I’ll be tempted to file it under Hyperloop Ridiculous Claims and Artists Conceptions.

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