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Hyperloop

Topics covered: 

Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

 

Hyperloop

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Hyperloop technology- features, significance and its use in India.

 

Context: Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One has signed an agreement with the Maharashtra government to build a Hyperloop that will cut the travel time between Mumbai and Pune to 25 minutes from the 3 hours it now takes by road.

 

What is hyperloop transportation system?

It is a transportation system where a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum tube connecting cities at speeds matching that of an aircraft.

The hyperloop concept is a brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk. US-based Hyperloop Transport Technology (HTT) claimed it costs $40 million per kilometre to build a hyperloop system while building a high-speed train line would cost almost twice. The hyperloop system is being designed to transport passengers and freight.

 

How it operates?

  1. In hyperloop transportation, custom-designed capsules or pods are expected to zip smoothly through continuous steel tubes which are held at partial vacuum. The pod which sandwiches the passenger compartment between an air compressor upfront and a battery compartment in the rear is supported by air caster skis at the bottom.
  2. The skis float on a thin layer of air provided under high pressure, eliminating rolling resistance and allowing for movement of the pods at high speeds. These capsules are expected to be driverless with estimated speeds of 1,000 km/h. Linear induction motors that are placed along the tube control the speed of the pod. Electronically-assisted acceleration and braking determines the speed of the capsule.

 

The Problems Plaguing the Hyperloop:

  1. Constructing a tube hundreds of kilometers long would be an engineering marvel in of itself. However, introducing a tube hundreds of kilometers long that operates at a near perfect vacuum which can support the force of capsule weighing thousands of kilograms as it travels hundreds of kilometers an hour is nothing short of sci-fi fantasy.
  2. Small scale experiments reveal the fundamentals of the idea are sound. Although, in the real world, there are too many factors that cannot be accounted for with a small scale design. In the real world, there are tens of thousands of kilograms of atmospheric pressure which threatens to crush any vacuum chamber.
  3. There is also the problem with thermal expansion which threatens to buckle any large structure without proper thermal expansion capabilities. The Hyperloop would also be stupendously expensive. There are many unavoidable problems facing the Hyperloop that threaten the structural integrity, and every human life on board. The problems can be addressed, but at a great cost.

 

Sources: the Hindu.