Hyperloop- Is It Possible?

  • Aman 

Technology has been given a new dimension of viewing things. Hyperloop, a new generation of underground transport which has the capability to travel with a speed of 700 miles an hour, making traveling hassle free and fast by using floating pods technology.

This revolutionary idea of transport having the speed of air travel but with just a fraction of its cost came out of the mind of Elon Musk via a 57-page PDF back in 2013.

The Hyperloop would manage this feat by transporting us in pods through depressurized tubes, rather like the pneumatic tubes used for transporting mail & he is not alone in this. Companies like Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Virgin Hyperloop One, TransPod, and many others have also started working on Hyperloop or the “fifth mode of transport”.

We all know that currently, the fastest way to travel is through air transport but at the same time, we know that for the majority of people it’s very costly and also time-consuming in terms of boarding and waiting time at the airports.

This is where the need for Hyperloop arises. It’s speculated that it would be running at the speed of ‘700 mph’ and the cost would be a fraction of an air ticket (approximately around 20$). Not to mention no waiting time or air traffic. So who wouldn’t want that? Right.

Now, you must be thinking if this idea is so great then why it’s taking so much time? For starters, the problem is to dig around and install the tunnel all over the city. Then we have lots of loopholes in the process which companies have proposed to transport the passengers from one place to another.

The speed of conventional trains and all land-based transport is limited by friction, both against the air ahead and the ground beneath. Hyperloop drastically reduces friction in both of these areas.  The basic principle on which hyperloop will work is that the ‘pods’ would levitate using magnetic levitation, or maglev, a technique that uses magnets to ‘float’ the pods and propel them through the tube.

Now, this propulsion raises a couple of issues. First, when you get up to the proposed speed which would be required in order for Hyperloop to compete with other high-speed transport modes, the air friction in the tunnel would become so great that the heat would damage the pods – and presumably the passengers inside them. Also, the pressure that would build up in front of the vessel would cause the tunnel to rupture.

This problem is solved by making the underground tunnel a vacuum – but if you have a tunnel that stretches for hundreds of miles, a single rupture would instantly compromise the vacuum and cause the system to fail. This means the best solution is to massively reduce the pressure. But the fact that there is pressure in the tube brings back the other issue; the faster the pod moves, the greater the pressure build-up ahead of it.

The proposed solution to this is that the front of the pod will have a fan that will push the air beneath and behind the vessel, which would have the additional benefit of aiding its levitation by creating an air buffer, similar to the technique used in air hockey to levitate the puck.

Going underground does solve the issue of having to have the real-estate above ground, but raises another issue in terms of obtaining the energy to power the system. Hyperloop also requires accelerating to high speeds for several minutes. We’re used to that for a shorter period on planes, but passengers will feel such forces for much longer on Hyperloop and trust me it will not be comfortable.

As of now, many projects have been undertaken regarding Hyperloop mostly in the USA. Projects like Hyperloop corridor between Amaravathi to Vijayawada and Mumbai and Delhi are the only project which has been started in India. The estimated cost for these projects has been proposed around $6 Billion to $7.5 Billion.

Successful test of Hyperloop has been conducted thus we can hope that they would be available for the selected group of individuals for testing in 2021. If everything goes as planned then the distance of 345km would be covered in a mere 30 minutes.

Virgin Hyperloop One has approached the problem with a ‘make it and show the world it works first’ mentality, creating a number of different test sites and prototypes to show that the technology is not some pie-in-the-sky dream of Musk’s, but a realistic proposal for an alternative mode of transport.

Below you can see the video of its first test, which took place on 12 May 2017. It’s only 24 seconds long, and you need to look closely, but you can see the levitation in action:

At last, we will say that it’s really exciting. The more we get young people interested in wacky engineering ideas, the better it is, really. Even if it turns out not to work, it’s an exciting thing to be working on.