The Hyperloop Gets A Boost: Update

Bringing the Hyperloop to the United States would have a tremendous impact on the way Americans travel and how cargo is transported around the country. Reaching speeds over 700mph, those in Los Angeles can make it to San Francisco in around 30 minutes. However, installing the infrastructure and technology is no easy task and one that also comes with a hefty price tag. Elon Musk is not known for backing down from a challenging venture, founder of Tesla and SpaceX Musk has taken on some incredible challenges and the Hyperloop is the next one on his plate. Now, a new breakthrough could help create a more affordable, efficient and safer means by which to power this impressive piece of infrastructure.

One of the two startups working with Musk to develop and improve on technology for the United States first Hyperloop came found a better way to power the high-speed train than its counterparts operating in China and Europe. Hyperloop Transportation Technology, LA-based startup announced that yesterday (5/9/2016) they licensed a technology called “passive magnetic levitation” to power their prototype. The conventional means by which to power a high-speed train is called maglev or regular magnetic levitation, this method requires power sources to be placed at regular intervals along the track, greatly increasing expenditures.

The passive magnetic levitation, Hyperloop Transportation Technology removes the need for power stations to follow the track. This technique was developed by Richard Post in 2000 and takes a different approach than conventional levitating high-speed trains. Using unpowered loops of wire in the track and permanent magnets in the train pod, levitation can be achieved while dramatically cutting down the amount of energy needed. Instead of the complex and extremely expensive infrastructure upgrades needed by the maglev, passive magnetic levitation otherwise known as “the Inductrack” is a more economically feasible option when constructing a Hyperloop in the United States.

The Inductrack uses no superconducting magnets or powered electromagnets, instead it uses permanent room-temperature magnets. Underneath each train car a flat, rectangular array of magnetic bars will be arranged in a specific pattern to boost the magnetic fields. When it comes to the track, closely packed coils of insulated wire will be embedded into the track. The coils are a closed circuit which will produce a levitating force by inducing electric currents in the track. The permanent magnets will cause a current to flow in the wire and when the train moves it will generate an electromagnetic field that repels the arrays. When the speed reaches a few kilometers per hour the train will levitate a few centimeters above the track’s surface, eliminating friction which allows the train to move incredibly fast while only using a miniscule amount of energy.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies COO, Bibop Gresta made a statement explaining the benefits of passive levitation. “Utilizing a passive levitation system will eliminate the need for power stations along the Hyperloop track, which makes this system the most suitable for the application and will keep construction costs low, – From a safety aspect, the system has huge advantages, levitation occurs purely through movement, therefore if any type of power failure occurs, Hyperloop pods would continue to levitate and only after reaching minimal speeds touch the ground.”

No word yet on which technology will be used in the final assembly of the Hyperloop but the benefits of passive levitation seem to overshadow the maglev system. Construction of the Hyperloop test track is underway now in Nevada so as progress continues on this project more details will become clear. Yet, whichever system they choose, if the Hyperloop comes to fruition it will have a profound impact on how people and cargo are transported around the country.

Update: 5/12/2016

Every day the Hyperloop is speeding its way closer to becoming a reality and yesterday marked the first time the technology was tested in the Nevada desert. Hyperloop One Inc., another of one of the companies working on making Elon Musk’s dream a reality conducted their first test of the propulsion system. This propulsion system is an essential part of the high-speed rail transportation system and the system performed flawlessly.

The 10 foot sled that levitated above the track accelerated to a speed of 116 mph in just over one second before coming to a dramatic stop in a sand pit which threw sand nearly 20 feet in the air. The “propulsion open-air test” (POAT) sled utilized Hyperloop One Inc.’s electromagnetic propulsion system. There is still no word yet on which propulsion system will be used in the fully functional Hyperloop or even for the full-scale test.

Hyperloop One has set an ambitious goal which is to start transporting cargo with this incredible rail system by 2019, and carrying passengers by 2021. The next step in development is to build a two-mile long stretch of tubes to test a full-scale version which will ride along the track in a vacuum.

You can watch the test in the video below:

Video Credit:


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