Innovation News: Hyperloop

By Jojo Rosenbluth

Hi! I’m Jojo Rosenbluth, a sophomore here at Northwood. This is my first semester taking Innovation + Design. I am very interested in designing inventions that are environmentally friendly. Over the summer, I went to a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) camp at my local high school where I designed and built a windmill that generated enough electricity to light two LED lights. Ever since I accomplished this task, I have been very interested in the field of design.

The windmill that I made at STEAM camp

The windmill that I made at STEAM camp

For about three years I have been obsessed with an invention that would completely transform transportation as we know it. Hyperloop is an idea that was first created by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. Essentially, it is a train designed to encounter as little friction as possible, which makes it go extremely fast. This would eliminate having to take long car rides and wait in traffic. In order to accomplish this, the train is levitated inside a tube that has very low air pressure (about 1/1000 normal air pressure).

A drawing of hyperloop. Photo Credit: National Geographic News

A drawing of hyperloop. Photo Credit: National Geographic News

There are normally two sources of friction that a vehicle encounters. One is friction between the vehicle and the ground. The other is friction between the vehicle and the air. To eliminate the first form of friction, the vehicle is levitated on a cushion of compressed air like an air hockey table. The second form of friction is eliminated by having the vehicle travel in a tube where most of the air has been removed. To propel the vehicle forwards, currents are sent in opposite directions on either side of the tube, creating a magnetic field. This magnetic field forces the vehicle forward similar to how a railgun works. 

The levitation aspect of the design is not original. The idea of a magnetically levitated train, also known as Maglev, has been around since about 2000. The first Maglev train started operating in 2004 in Shanghai, China. A maglev train in Japan broke its own speed record in 2015, hitting 374mph. 

Japan's Maglev train. Photo Credit: CNN

Japan's Maglev train. Photo Credit: CNN

While the thought of riding a hyperloop in the near future may seem far-fetched, you may be riding one sooner than you think. Hyperloop One recently signed a contract to make a hyperloop in Dubai, and construction is supposed to start as soon as 2018! Here is a video about what it might me like to ride in a hyperloop:

Traveling by Hyperloop gets you from point A to point B about four times faster than if you were to travel by plane, and a Hyperloop ticket is far cheaper than a plane ticket! Hyperloop is also much more environmentally friendly than cars and planes, as it does not use any oil. However, I am not sure how much energy is required to produce the compressed air, and what the power source would be.  I wonder if Hyperloop will be able to turn or if it will have to go in a straight line. If it is supposed to turn, how will it do this? I also wonder how expensive it would be to cut a path for the Hyperloop and to build it.