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Hyperloop – A Futuristic Train

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Hyperloop – The name itself suggests something hyper cool. Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk has developed an ingenious new train system dubbed Hyperloop. Ever imagined a train that could beat an airplane? Sounds interesting, doesn’t it. But what is it and how does it work?The Hyperloop is basically a futuristic train that Musk calls “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table”. It’s based on the very high speed transit (VHST) system proposed in 1972 which combines a magnetic levitation train and a low pressure transit tube. It evolves some of the original ideas of VHST, but still uses tunnels and pods or capsules to move from place to place. What was once a proposed idea could soon be a reality! A 5-mile test loop track will start this year in Quay Valley on a site owned by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.The question then arises – How does it all work? One of the biggest problems with anything moving, is friction, both against surfaces and the environment the pod is moving through. Hyperloop proposes to move away from traditional wheels by using air bearings for pods instead. This will have the pod floating on air. It’s similar to maglev in which the electromagnetic levitation of the train means there is no friction like a traditional train that runs on tracks. This is how current maglev trains can achieve super speeds, like the 500km/h maglev train in Japan. Hyperloop might use passive magnetic levitation, meaning the magnets might be on the trains and work with aluminium track. Current active maglev needs powered tracks with copper coiling, which are freaking expensive.To achieve hyper speeds, The Hyperloop will take commuting to the next level by travelling through low pressure tubes. The Hyperloop will be built in tunnels that have had some of the air sucked out to lower the pressure. So, like high altitude flying, there’s less resistance against the pod moving through the tunnel, meaning it can be much more energy efficient, something that’s highly desirable in any transit system. While the original VHST proposed using a vacuum, there’s an inherent difficulty in creating and maintaining a vacuum in a tunnel that will have things like stations, and any break in the vacuum could potentially render the entire system futile. The idea is to lower the air pressure, a job that could be done by regularly placed air pumps. Low pressure, however means you still have some air in the tunnels.The tunnels would be made primarily of metal tubes. Musk has suggested that solar panels running on the top of the tunnels could generate enough electricity to power the system. It could also run as an underground system too. As a result of this, Speeds of over 700mph are suggested for journeys, but there are practical implications that have to be considered on a short stop-start journey, such as the acceleration and deceleration sensation that passengers would go through. In short, such high speeds will lead to G-Force that is not ideal for passenger travel. Elon has revealed the plan to make a 1 mile track in SpaceX’s California Headquarters and a proposed $6 billion plan for a route between LA and San Francisco, a 354-mile journey.Musk wants to utilise young dynamic minds. Initially there will be pod testing from student candidates in the proposed competition. Musk is even thinking of having pod races. According to Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn the cost of a ticket should be around $30 mark to get a passenger from LA to San Francisco. That, he says, should allow the company to pay back its initial costs in eight years. He also has revealed that Hyperloop could be a tangible travel option as early as 2020. If and when this happens, it would be one of the fastest and the most economically efficient means of achieving hyper speed passenger travel.

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