Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, has proposed a revolutionary new form of transport he calls the Hyperloop. The idea is reminiscent of a pneumatic tube, in which capsules containing passengers are shot through a contained environment at incredibly high speeds. The proposed system would be able to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

Obviously there are a number of technical hurdles, not the least of which is how to power such a transportation system. The proposal identified that batteries couldn’t power supersonic travel alone, instead they would need to be periodically recharged during transit. This could be easily accomplished using induction charging similar to the wireless charging pads used for phones. Moreover, the charging would only need to be places over about 1% of the track. Additionally, the Hyperloop would could easily produce more power than it consumes by placing solar panels on top of the tube.

Another issue is the friction generated by such speed. Normal wheels wouldn’t work at such speeds, so instead the Hyperloop  would suspend itself above the surface of the tube using an air-cushion. This air cushion is created with from air funneled in from the front of the capsule, which also helps cut down on air resistance.

The proposal is gaining a lot of media attention, but the Hyperloop has a long ways to go before it sees the light of day. Not the smallest hurdle is the competition from the proposed California high-speed rail. Only time will tell which of the systems is ultimately implemented.


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