Improving the Hyperloop with Studies and Fins

Diagram of choked flow

Pressure build-up (piston effect) in front of high-speed vehicles in tunnel.

Ever since Elon Musk proposed the concept of high-speed transportation using Hyperloop in 2013*, the efficient form for short-haul travel has been studied and modeled in the Mechanical Engineering department at San Jose State. The Hyperloop is a concept for the high-speed ground transportation of passengers traveling in pods at transonic speeds in a partially evacuated tube. It consists of a low-pressure tube with capsules traveling at both low and high speeds throughout the length of the tube.

The benefits of Hyperloop are immediately apparent: as an example, to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a typical aircraft’s gate-to-gate travel time is one hour and 28 minutes, but the actual flight time is only 58 minutes while the remaining 30 minutes are taken up with taxiing, take off, landing, and arrival at the gate. Hyperloop pods could alleviate some of these inefficiencies by traveling in near-vacuum conditions, allowing them to maintain much higher speeds.

However, when a high-speed system travels through a low-pressure tube with a constrained diameter, such as in the case of the Hyperloop, it becomes an aerodynamically challenging problem. Airflow tends to get choked at the constrained areas around the pod, creating a high-pressure region at the front of the pod, a phenomenon referred to as the “piston effect.” 

Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Vimal Viswanathan and graduate student Aditya Bose just published their paper, “Mitigating the Piston Effect in High-Speed Hyperloop

Transportation: A Study on the Use of Aerofoils,” in the journal Energies 2021, 14, 464.

Diagram of fins

Comparison of the stream lines around the two pods. The phase 2 pod (with fins) led to fewer eddy currents compared to the phase 1 pod.

Papers exploring potential solutions for the piston effect are scarce. The SJSU team studied the aerodynamic performance of a Hyperloop pod inside a vacuum tube, using the Reynolds-Average Navier–Stokes technique for three-dimensional computational analysis. Then they added aerofoil-shaped fins to the aeroshell as a potential way to mitigate the piston effect. The results of their study showed that the addition of fins helps in reducing the drag and eddy currents while providing a positive lift to the pod. Further, these fins were found to be effective in reducing the pressure build-up at the front of the pod.

Viswanathan and Bose had been invited last summer to contribute to this first-ever special issue journal on Hyperloop transportation. “This is only the fourth paper published in English on the aerodynamics of Hyperloop, as well as the first three-dimensional CFD study on the Hyperloop,” said Viswanathan. “We used the Spartan Hyperloop team’s design for the study.”

*Musk, E. Hyperloop Alpha; Spacex: Hawthorne, CA, USA, 2013.

How San Jose State College and its Department of Engineering Launched State School Accreditation

Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering 75 yearsWhile California would address many issues in the development of 20th century state higher education, it can safely be said that San Jose State University and its College of Engineering’s challenge against certain restrictions in 1953 created a watershed in the development of the state university system’s role in California education, and made a significant and positive impact on what state schools could offer to meet the growing needs of the public.

As you read this timeline of developments between 1946 and 1960, it is helpful to know that the American Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD), established in June 1932, was an engineering professional body dedicated to the education, accreditation, regulation and professional development of the engineering professionals and students in the United States. ECPD grew and has changed its name to ABET, Inc. and its focus solely to accreditation.

1946: An Engineering program was founded at San Jose State College (SJSC), with Ralph Smith as its first full-time professor
1947: The state Board of Education first authorized engineering as a major with an AB degree.

1948: First graduating class of Engineering students– 3 degrees granted, 2 in comms, 1 in construction. That year, the Strayer Committee produced a survey of the Higher-Education needs of California. Results were against state schools offering professional engineering programs or programs that could be accredited by the ECPD. The state political lobby was against it, in part because many of the politicians came from University of California (UC) schools.

1949: Construction, Production and Communications majors were converted into BS programs, while Aeronautics and IT remained AB majors.

During the 1950’s, the California Board of Education prevented California state/normal schools from offering masters degrees. SJSC offered something more like a professional vocational degree. In 1950 and ‘51, meetings were held among representatives from the state department of Education, state colleges and UCs to resolve Engineering issues in state schools.

1952: Accreditation, graduate study and research were considered the business of the University of California schools only. State colleges were told to concentrate on training “practical engineers,” that is, technicians. Many industries in the valley, however, were not hiring grads without full engineering degrees, or would hire engineers who started at SJSC, but completed a full degree elsewhere in the valley (Santa Clara or Stanford).

1953: State Department of Education and the UC Regents unanimously approved restricting state schools from seeking ECPD accreditation, grad study, and engineering research, in an agreement called “Engineering Education in the State Colleges and the University of California.”

1956: There were now 946 students in the SJSC Engineering college. All curricula except Aeronautics were revised to meet ECPD standards, and functional names were changed. Construction became Civil Engineering, Production became Industrial Engineering, Electronics changed to Electrical. At this time the General Engineering program was created, so that there would still be a general engineer’s professional training track. Also during this year, Aeronautical Maintenance and Aeronautical Management were changed to BS degrees. Although accreditation was not possible at this time, the San Jose State professors tried to make them as close as possible to the accredited programs offered elsewhere.

Dean Norm Gunderson

Dean Norm Gunderson

Dean Norman O. Gunderson later said, “I became totally involved in the problem almost immediately upon my assumption of the Headship of the Division of Engineering and Mathematics in the summer of 1956 — the title Dean wasn’t granted until some years later. An industry representative walked into my office to inquire about the future availability of graduate work and accredited undergraduate programs — these were important lures when recruiting new engineering employees for the rapidly expanding industrial complex of the Valley. I explained the dilemma posed by the ’53 Agreement — and we were off and away into the exciting two years.”

1957: Application and Sales Engineering were phased out, and the Engineering Metallurgy (later to be called Materials Engineering) program was created. IBM’s request for a graduate program in Electrical Engineering at SJSC kicked off another battle to get the restrictions lifted for state schools. With the participation of local industry and government leaders and the assistance of Assemblyman Bruce Allen, Gunderson became the main state college voice for granting accreditation to state engineering degrees.

“As part of the strategy of dramatizing the harm done to us because of not being able to be accredited, I even wrote a detailed proposal for a $100,000 grant from the Atomic Energy Commission for a training reactor which was available only to accredited institutions.” — Dean Gunderson

1958: A Joint Staff study (headed by UC, DOE and Santa Clara U leaders) offered a compromise — they recommended that restrictions against seeking accreditation be lifted for state schools, but that they still not be allowed to create graduate programs. This concession was unacceptable to the San Jose leaders, and Bruce Allen counterproposed with AB 1, a bill proposing two changes to the state education code, broadening the state college charter to include training in engineering, science, and math, and to establish, with state BOE approval, courses of instruction leading to masters degrees in engineering.

As support for AB 1 grew, and the biases of UC-alumni politicians were no longer sufficient to defend the 1953 decision, the UC and state legislators came together to turn AB 1 into State Concurrent Resolution No. 9, which called for immediate granting of permission to state schools to seek accreditation and create graduate programs in colleges where there was local demand for advanced engineering education. SCR 9 passed quickly in April 1958. Now, State schools were granted permission to seek ECPD accreditation and offer masters programs. Having already made some programs as close as possible to accreditable status, San Jose quickly prepped for and hosted an ECPD site visit in Nov. 1958.

1959: As a result of AB 1 and SCR 9, San Jose was able to establish its first masters program, in Electrical Engineering. As a result of the ECPD site visit, ECPD granted accreditation to San Jose’s Civil and Electrical Engineering programs.

Still, conflict between state colleges and the UC had intensified over a host of issues, and resolution had been kicked back to the state legislature. The host of bills, amendments and resolutions on public higher education got streamlined into Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 88, introduced by Dorothy Donahoe. It called for an immediate Master Plan for Higher Ed in California, and a survey team was formed to review and resolve all the issues in public higher education. In late 1959, the Regents and the State Board of Education approved the team’s findings.

Spring 1960: Legislation containing all the key features of the Master Plan was ratified in the State Assembly,
and named the Donahoe Higher Education Act of 1960. Signed into law by Governor Edmund Brown Sr., the Donahoe Act removed state colleges from the governance of the State Board of Education, and created the California State College system, with its own chancellor and board of trustees appointed to govern it. It also created the Coordinating Council for Higher Education, consisting of members from the UCs, state schools, junior colleges, private colleges, and members of the public.

SJSU Materials Engineering Designs Shine at Technical Meeting

Materials Engineering undergraduates from San Jose State University participated in a virtual technical presentation at the November joint technical meeting hosted by the Santa Clara Valley chapter of ASM International and the Northern California chapter of SAMPE, the world’s largest associations of metals and composites-centric materials engineers and scientists. SCV-ASM Chair Jacques Matteau said, “These 16 young minds represent the possibilities of the type of innovations we may all get to see in the years to come as these ideas potentially grow and take root.” Covalent Metrology was the corporate sponsor for this meeting.

The senior projects were initiated by students.They presented proposed designs (rather than final designs) of impactful projects ranging from recycling cat litter to a no-electricity-required ventilator design.

One thread running through all the student projects was, how can we solve real-world issues? Julian Degery, already working in industry, is addressing how to keep polyurethane material  tension steady on production lines with a wide range of speeds and operating modes. Christopher Patrick Lee was inspired to start his 3D-printed traction device project after suffering from “Text-neck syndrome” while studying for finals.

Another common theme was working with accessible and affordable materials. Olga Blinova uses her SJSU access to High Performance Computers to design a simulation of material atomic interaction among various materials; her computational research helps us better understand and predict real-world limits. And the team of Patricia Allana Dela Cruz and Edward Pamell Penico keep their materials budget under $300 so the prosthetic hand they are designing can remain affordable for many of the 1.2 million amputees in the United States.

“One of the nice things about SJSU Engineering students is that they are often already working part-time,” remarked chapter member Chris Moore. “They understand enough about how companies operate so they can hit the ground running.”

Richard Chung, Chair of the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department, said, “I’m so proud of our students and the solutions they are coming up with. A couple of projects have received industry support such as the Retro-19 ventilator project (Livermore Instruments), the Rigid Absorbing Desiccant (Steel Camel), the Rechargeable pacemaker and Lower limb prosthetic (both Jabil), and TarpPad (Pfeiffer Consulting/Higher Ground).”

The Projects for Fall 2020 include:

  • Timelapse Motion Control Robot, by Syed Ahmad Ali
  • Atomic Model of Electro-optical Properties of Zinc Tungstate, ZnWO4, by Olga Blinova
  • Dancer Arm Tension Control Optimization, by Julian Xavier Degery
  • Prosthetic Hand using 3D Printing via Gradient-Dependent Infill, by Patricia Allana Dela Cruz and Edward Pamell Penico
  • Surface Modification Of 3D Printed PLA Part Using a Solution of Virgin PLA Material Dissolved in Solvent Allowing for Surface Bonding, by Kyle Matthew Hendrickson
  • Design of a Cervical Traction Device, by Christopher Patrick Lee
  • Retro 19 Volume Indicator (Modernising the Mark 7 ventilator for COVID applications), by Scott Minol Lienhart and An Thien Trong
  • Cost-Effective Process for Safely Recycling Sodium Bentonite Cat Litter, by Raleigh Joseph Lynaugh and his feline assistant Hildegard
  • Application of a Rigid Absorbing Desiccant, by Vinny Vo Nguyen
  • TarpPad, by Timothy Richard Riley Jr.
  • An Additively Manufactured Variable Isotropy Thermoplastic Structure for a Lower Limb Prosthetic, by Ruth Sosa
  • Development of Software for Modeling Geometric Frustration in Glassy Structures, by Mina Tavakolzdeh
  • Solar Cell Helmet, by Ray Anthony Turrietta
  • Rechargeable Pacemaker Optimization: Polymeric Material Design, by Dikaios C. Wong

Synopsys and SJSU – Full ‘STEM’ Ahead

According to the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 80 percent of future professions will require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) expertise. It’s a tall order that can only be filled through the collective efforts of industry-university partnerships, such as the Synopsys partnership with San Jose State’s College of Engineering.

For more than ten years, the Synopsys Integrated Circuit Design lab has been serving college students in STEM programs. The lab enables engineering students to do full custom analog and digital Integrated Circuit design for both academic and research purposes. Synopsys employee and SJSU Engineering alumna, Cleo Costello (’85 and ’87), played a key role in building the lab in conjunction with Dr. Belle Wei, Carolyn Guidry Chair, Engineering Education & Innovative Learning and former Dean, SJSU Charles Davidson School of Engineering; and Chair, Center for Advancing Women in Technology.

“The relationship between San Jose State University and Synopsys is symbiotic. We have a shared purpose to advance more women from diverse backgrounds in STEM careers. The goal is systemic and sustained change.”

— Dr. Belle Wei

Annually, Synopsys participates in a variety of SJSU engineering career fairs, and the Engineering Awards banquet. Synopsys is a sponsor of the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference (WiE), where students learn, network and build community. WiE is the largest event of its kind in Silicon Valley and is produced in collaboration with the Society of Women Engineers at San Jose State University.

In addition, Synopsys continues to explore opportunities for mentoring and sponsorship of formative activities for SJSU students, including engagement with the Society of Latinx Engineers and other organizations that support women and diversity in STEM. In the past three years, Synopsys has hired more than 50 SJSU students for internship roles. Synopsys believes that hiring a diverse workforce and working to build a strong community where every voice is heard fosters innovation and drives better business results.

SJSU undergrad and grad students are encouraged to apply for Synopsys Internships to hone their tech skills and gain valuable exposure to professional teams, projects, and workplace environments. Interns at Synopsys learn how to formulate goals, present ideas, and position themselves as individuals with unique strengths as they progress toward graduation and career pursuits. Along with a competitive salary, they gain exposure to innovative EDA, semiconductor IP, and software security technologies as well as real-world work experience and research opportunities alongside engineering and business experts, Synopsys executives, and community leaders.

SJSU is not only a leading supplier of engineering talent to Synopsys and other Silicon Valley tech companies, but as a member of the Technology Pathways Initiative, it is also one of California’s first universities to establish interdisciplinary computing degree programs to attract more college women to STEM studies and careers.

Synopsys’ Commitment to Diversity

To power the New Era of Smart Everything, Synopsys aims to solve complex challenges that impact every sector of the modern world and people from all walks of life. “Synopsys Inclusion & Diversity initiatives aim to attract and retain a pool of engineering talent that reflects the diversity of our world,” said Costello. “We are committed to being leaders in hiring and developing talent among women and other underrepresented groups.”

“There’s a need for more balance in STEM degree programs and career opportunities; from engineering roles, to leadership positions, to boardrooms. The balance should address gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Achieving better balance will strengthen companies, industries and society. This is our goal at Synopsys, design Inclusion and Diversity initiatives that help achieve better balance.”

— Chi-Foon Chan, President and co-CEO, Synopsys Inc.

We know a pool of engineering talent is needed to fuel tech innovations that drive economic growth and prosperity and underpin many aspects of social well-being. But when we look into that pool, does it reflect the world we serve and all its diversity? The answer is, not yet; there’s more that can be done.

Get Involved

Synopsys and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering want to help students to make the transition from college to career:

SJSU Professor Badawy is Enlightening Photovoltaic Convertors

How would you like your residential solar photovoltaic system to operate at maximum efficiency, regardless of whether shade hits your solar panels? SJSU Electrical Engineering professor Mohamed Badawy and his students have created a differential power-processing architecture for a partially shaded photovoltaic string that could increase the extracted amount of solar energy by 15-30% compared to conventional systems.

“The overarching purpose,” said Badawy, “is to develop new photovoltaic configurations that can extract as much energy as possible, while using low-cost interfacing systems to convert the harvested energy to usable levels.” This project is made possible by generous support from Fremont-based Delta Electronics (Americas), a global provider of power and thermal management solutions.

Any shade on solar panels leads to a lower amount of extracted solar energy from the system. And worse, when connected panels are exposed to shading conditions in a non-uniform manner, the shading not only affects the shaded panels but it also negatively impacts the output energy of all the panels connected to it. Badawy’s new technology eliminates this problem with a new redesign of differential power processing PV converters.

“We published two papers on it and are currently preparing two journal publications based on the experimental results we got, said Badawy. “The project results showed the system’s ability to increase the energy capture of PV panels by up to 30% under shading conditions while adding less than 10% of capital cost into the PV system.”

Highlights of the new architecture include an increase in PV lifetime, because it uses a ceramic capacitor vs. the older electrolytic capacitor; a modular design; and lower current ripple on both input and output sides.

Because Badawy is also a teacher, he’s kept an eye on the project’s effect on his students. Two students on this project just received their Master’s degrees and two more students are planning to pursue this project as their Master’s research. This project group includes female and Latinx students, a critical step in promoting the renewable energy research area at SJSU while diversifying the student body of SJSU research labs.

“The students were able to work on a practical problem under real pressure to deliver,” he said. “This certainly helped their technical, design and hardware skills to develop. Additionally, the students were always attending SJSU-Delta meetings to present their own work, which helped to develop their professional skills. They also learned how to build partnerships, which is a skill they will always need in their careers.”

The SJSU collaboration is part of Delta’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program to partner with universities and institutions in the United States to nurture talent capable of developing next-generation renewable energy technologies, an initiative in line with Delta’s corporate mission, “To provide innovative, clean and energy-efficient solutions for a better tomorrow.”

“This experience has proved extremely rewarding for our staff, as we bridge the gap between industry and academia,” said Peter Barbosa, director of Delta’s Milan M. Jovanovic Power Electronics Lab in Raleigh, N.C. “The fresh perspectives we gained are invaluable as we solve some of the energy industry’s biggest challenges.”