Beyond the hype of Hyperloop: An analysis of Elon Musk’s proposed transit system


“It’s a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table.”

Now that the media kerfuffle surrounding Elon Musk‘s Hyperloop transit system proposal has settled down to a dull roar, it’s a good time to step back and consider in detail some of the real innovations and difficult issues raised through analysis of the 57-page Hyperloop plan.

The shortest description of the Hyperloop is Musk’s own bon mot: “It’s a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table.”

A slightly more complete description of the concept is that of an elevated, reduced-pressure tube that contains pressurized capsules driven within the tube by a number of linear electric motors. These capsules move with very little friction or drag owing to air bearings that ride on the inner surface of the tube, and a combination of active and passive means to reduce the negative effects of choked airflow on the transportation system.

In this article I am only considering the science and engineering aspects of the Hyperloop. While acknowledging that political issues may actually determine its fate, what concerns us here is whether or not it could work.

A Quick Overview

A reaction many people have to the Hyperloop is that there is nothing new here. While it’s fair to say that all inventors are standing on the shoulders of giants to a certain degree, there are in fact very real innovations in Musk’s proposal.

The Hyperloop has essentially no relationship with the old pneumatic tube transports beyond a certain similarity of appearance. There is, however, quite a bit of overlap with earlier proposals for reduced pressure or vacuum-tube transports. In particular, the early theoretical and experimental work of Robert Goddard, the inventor of the liquid fuel rocket, appears to have the greatest overlap with the Hyperloop.

Goddard’s notes about reduced pressure transports sat in storage for over 30 years, only surfacing after his death in 1945. In US patent 2,511,979, he describes nearly every major feature of the Hyperloop save for the use of linear electric motors for propulsion (he preferred using reaction motors for propulsion), and using special apparatus to minimize the detrimental effects of choked airflow around the capsules. Goddard also described the use of air bearings, but of a very different sort than proposed for the Hyperloop. Many others, of course, have suggested the use of linear electric motors.

To sum up, it would appear that the main innovations in the Hyperloop proposal are the type of air bearings used to reduce friction forces on the moving capsules, and design elements that avoid the limitations encountered when the airflow around the capsules is choked. Let’s take a closer look at these additions.

See Also

Read more . . .



The Latest Bing News on:
The Latest Google Headlines on:

[google_news title=”” keyword=”Hyperloop” num_posts=”10″ blurb_length=”0″ show_thumb=”left”]

The Latest Bing News on:
Vacuum-tube transports
  • ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 Combo Complete is the last vacuum you’ll ever buy
    on May 21, 2024 at 9:22 am

    The new flagship ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 Combo Complete is a robot vacuum, robot mop, and cordless stick vacuum in one. Here's why you need it.

  • Video: Snail robot climbs vertical walls without leaving a slimy trail
    on May 15, 2024 at 10:44 am

    Snails are great at climbing vertical surfaces, even though they have just a single wet suction-cup foot. A new bio-inspired robot climbs walls by mimicking that simple yet effective mechanism, ...

  • Why Is The United States Is Falling Behind On The Hyperloop?
    on May 9, 2024 at 6:36 am

    When Elon first announced the futuristic, vacuum-tube-based transport system, it promised lightning-quick, eco-friendly, and incredibly affordable travel. And it was supposed to hit America's West ...

  • Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Vision Hits a Dead End, Here’s Why
    on March 14, 2024 at 11:31 am

    The Hyperloop technology, with its use of magnetic levitation and near-vacuum conditions, promised a revolution in transport. The idea of aluminum capsules whisking through tubes at speeds of up ...

  • European Railways Of The Future Are Faster Than Elon Musk’s Hyperloop
    on October 11, 2023 at 2:22 pm

    vacuum tube mobility system is nowhere near to seeing the light of day. Yet ambitions for future-fit mobility remain very much alive, particularly across the Atlantic. Contrary to the approach ...

  • Vacuum Sensors Information
    on June 27, 2022 at 9:23 pm

    Image credit: Handbook of Modern Sensors Ionization gauge Vacuum gauges which use ions are similar to vacuum tubes. The relationship between the ion current and the filament is a nearly linear ...

  • Should Have Used A Vacuum Tube 555
    on March 29, 2021 at 12:40 am

    Definitely not in the meme category, though, is this overkill vacuum tube 555 timer. It comes to us via [David Lovett], aka [Usagi Electric], who has lately caught the “hollow state ...

  • Hyperloop: Fast, But At What Cost?
    on December 9, 2020 at 2:14 am

    Land acquisition is often the biggest hurdle for such transport links ... Large, long-distance vacuum tubes are significantly more complex than a normal railway, and present issues around ...

  • Vacuum Tubes Information
    on August 15, 2020 at 4:12 am

    Vacuum tubes are electronic components used to amplify, switch, modify and/or create analog signals by controlling the movement of electrons in low-pressure spaces. These components are used in ...

  • The 8 Best Leaf Vacuums Make Lawn Cleanup a Breeze
    on July 24, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    It has wheels at the end of the vacuum tube, allowing you to roll it along the ground, taking pressure off your back. Switching the machine from blower to vacuum is also easier than with other ...

The Latest Google Headlines on:
Vacuum-tube transports

[google_news title=”” keyword=”vacuum-tube transports” num_posts=”10″ blurb_length=”0″ show_thumb=”left”]

What's Your Reaction?
Don't Like it!
I Like it!
Scroll To Top