Today, the world is looking towards technologies to improve and simplify life, and the hyperloop is one such technology. The hyperloop will improve the way people and cargo are moved from one place to another by offering faster means of transport. While the idea behind the hyperloop is not new, the hyperloop was brought back to life by Elon Musk in his paper titled “Hyperloop Alpha”. In the following sections, we are going to look at five things to know about the hyperloop technology.
1. What is hyperloop technology?
The Hyperloop is an innovative form of transportation system whose concept is based on a capsule(pod) placed in a nearly evacuated tube in which it moves at great speed. Thanks to Maglev technology, the hyperloop is not far from reality. Maglev enables the pods to travel with frictionless motion by elevating them above the surface of the tube using the repulsion between the magnets at the bottom of the pod and surface of the tube. The frictionless motion is further enhanced providing a vacuum in the tube to prevent air resistance.
2. How a hyperloop is built?
Designing and building a hyperloop requires a consideration of the materials and components that the system needs to achieve functionality. The one of these components is the tube which needs to be made of a material capable of withstanding the effects of the vacuum and the high speed of the pods as well as weather and environmental effects. Steel has been found to be a suitable material compared to other materials such as concrete.
In order to use steel tubes for the hyperloop, the tubes need to be thick enough to over the buckling effects caused by the vacuum. However, steel is also sensitive to the weather conditions which calls for the use of composite materials to overcome the thermal expansion of steel due to ambient temperatures. As example, HyperloopTT (one of leading companies in hyperloop technology) developed a composite material called Vibranium. Vibranium is a smart material which is capable of monitoring and sending critical information such as; the integrity, stability and temperature of the hyperloop system.
An environment control is also needed within the tubes to reduce on the air resistance. To achieve this, special vacuum pump technologies are needed to control the vacuum conditions within the hyperloop. These vacuum pumps are designed to achieve and maintain low pressure within the tubes using minimum energy consumption as is the case with hyperloop system that is being developed by HyperloopTT.
The hyperloop pods also need to be elevated above the track to reduce the friction during travel. This where maglev technology is key. With the air resistance reduced, pods can travel at great speed once elevated.
3. How fast can a hyper loop go?
According to the white paper (Hyperloop Alpha) released by Elon Musk in 2013, the hyperloop was estimated to achieve speeds up to 760mph. Today, the actual tests conducted by virgin hyperloop revealed speeds over 1000 km/h. At this speed, hyperloop pods can move three times faster than a high speed train.
4. Who is investing hyperloop technology?
Companies all over the world are tackling the problem that is to bring the hyperloop to reality. Some of these companies include hyperloopTT, Virgin hyperloop, Transpod and DGW Hyperloop. While many have invested in the hyperloop, the long term investment in the hyperloop technology is going to require a phased approach.
5. How far is the hyperloop from your every day reality?
On November 8, 2020, Virgin hyperloop (an American company) had its first test drive of a hyperloop with real passengers traveling over 500m track. The test was completed successfully and safely. This was a big achievement because it addressed safety issues regarding the hyperloop, and opened doors for scaling the technology. More and more feasibility tests are still being done on the hyperloop all over the world ( India, Dubai and USA). Once the feasibility tests are done, the development of the hyperloop will have to overcome some challenges regarding its global commercial model and long distance travel before it become an everyday form of transport.
MetInvest. (2020). Hyperloop steel tube. https://metinvestholding.com/en/media/article/staljnaya-truba-hyperloop
Musk, E. (2013). Hyperloop Alpha. https://www.tesla.com/sites/default/files/blog_images/hyperloop-alpha.pdf
Ingo A. Hansen (2020) Hyperloop transport technology assessment and system analysis, Transportation Planning and Technology, 43:8, 803-820, DOI: 10.1080/03081060.2020.1828935
Santangelo, A. (2018). Hyperloop as an evolution of maglev. Transportation Systems and Technology, 4(4), 44–63. https://doi.org/10.17816/transsyst20184444-63
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