What is Hyperloop?
Hyperloop is a high-speed capsule that is shot through a low-pressure tube using industrial air pumps. It’s incredibly cost-effective, incredibly fast (740 miles per hour), and incredibly efficient (100% solar powered).
- The tube is out back, 11 feet in diameter, 60 feet long, the unfinished end spiralling into wide ribbons of steel-like a gigantic Pillsbury dough container with its seams gaping open.
- Behind the tube is a big blue tent known as the robot school, where autonomous welders wheel or crawl along, making the tubes airtight.
- The goal is to put tracks and electromagnets inside the tube and vacuum the air out.
- Ultimately, capsules will scream through the centre of such a tube at 700 miles per hour on a cushion of air-a way to get from A to B faster and more efficiently than planes or trains.
- The first public tests of this concept, albeit on an open-air track, will take place in North Las Vegas.
- It’s aiming to hit 400 miles per hour.
- Hyperloop is a new way to move people and things at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket. It’s on-demand, energy-efficient and safe.
- Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation that would propel a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed.
- A hyperloop is a system to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment.
Why was Hyperloop Designed?
Entrepreneur Elon Musk introduced the world to the concept of a giant vacuum-tube transportation system, the Hyperloop, two and a half years ago.
- Elon Musk, founder of Paypal (first secure web payment service), Tesla (the first successful electric car company), SpaceX (first private space travel company), and Solar City (one of the largest providers of household solar energy), has a tendency to address big problems.
- The basic idea is to build a partially evacuated tube, inside which capsules would float on a layer of air, pulling them along with a fan and getting extra propulsion from electromagnets in the tube’s walls.
- Although the design was ambitious to the point of being outlandish, none of its components was fundamentally unproven, something often overlooked.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is a group of 500 part-time engineers located across the United States who collaborate through weekly teleconferences. Rather than being paid directly, members work in exchange for stock options. The company is projecting the completion of a technical feasibility study in 2015 but has said that it is at least ten years away from a commercially operating Hyperloop.
How does it work?
Hyperloop has four key features.
1) The passenger capsules aren’t propelled by air pressure like in vacuum tubes, but by two electromagnetic motors. It is aimed to travel at a top speed of 760 miles per hour.
2) The tube tracks do have a vacuum, but not completely free of air. Instead, they have low-pressure air inside of them.
Most things moving through air tubes will end up compressing the air in the front thus, providing a cushion of air that slows the object down. But the Hyperloop will feature a compressor fan in the front of the capsule. The compressor fan can redirect air to the back of the capsule, but mostly air will be sent to the air bearings.
3) Air bearings are ski like paddles that levitate the capsules above the surface of the tube to reduce friction.
4) The tube track is designed to be immune to weather and earthquakes. They are also designed to be self-powering and obstructive. The pillars that rise the tube above the ground have a small foot-print that can sway in the case of an earthquake. Each of the tube sections can move around flexibly of the train ships because there isn’t a constant track that capsules rely on.
And solar panels on the top the track supply power to the periodic motors.
With these innovations and completely automated departure system, Elon Musk’s dreams of the hyperloop being the fastest, safest and the most convenient form of travel in the world.
Pros and cons of the Hyperloop
- Hyperloops are sealed tubes, so they are protected from the elements, like birds and falling trees, as well as human dangers like cars stalled on railroad tracks.
- Hyperloops have a natural failsafe system – in the event of equipment or electrical failure, they glide (or maybe grind) to a halt, rather than falling out of the sky and crashing, or careening off the road into a river.
- Automated Operation reduces the risk of human error, so its unlikely to go too fast and crash into the end station, exceed safe G-forces on turns, or any number of things people could mess up.
- Evacuated tubes can be dangerous, potentially leading to deadly decompression of the passenger space if the pod seals fail and the vacuum safety systems fail as well (or if the system is buggy or is hacked). Probably less likely than an aeroplane depressurization since the pods operate in a more controlled environment and weight savings is much less of an issue, but the pressures are much stronger and potentially more straining on the mechanical system and more damaging if experienced by humans.
- Sealed tubes can be hard to get out of. If a pod does fail and gets stuck for some reason, it may be hard to escape. Presumably a system would be built that would repressurize the tube safely and allow people to open the pod and open some sort of hatch to escape the tube, even in the case of total electronics failure, so I’d imagine it wouldn’t be any worse than escaping a broken down BART train in the Transbay Tube.
- The extreme speeds necessitate thermal management of the pressurized air column. If the thermal management system fails and the pod doesn’t stop quickly enough, the people in the pod could cook. This isn’t that different from the risk of people freezing in an aeroplane if the heating system breaks, but might happen more quickly and thus be harder to react to a problem in time, especially since there is no pilot to catch errors with the system. To learn more about thermal management check out resources like this Pfannenberg.com – thermal management case study.
Hyperloop can be safer than any current transport options in terms of deaths or injuries per passenger mile because most of the pros relate to avoiding uncontrollable dangers, like human error, and the cons can be mitigated by engineering the system well, which is controllable. The ultimate safety record will come down to the amount of time and money spent on engineering the system to be safe.