We dare to dream. The bigger the dream the better. In fact, in this high-tech age of invention that we live in anything seems possible — 3D printing houses, real-time language translation, moon villages, even skyscrapers towering over a kilometre high.
Of course, not every dream can be realised today. So when Elon Musk revealed his idea for a new type of train — the Hyperloop — back in 2013, many thought it could be added to the ‘someday/maybe’ list alongside space elevators, robot butlers and flying cars. Especially since Musk and SpaceX have no plans to build one themselves.
The Hyperloop concept is part-maglev, part air hockey, part cannon. According to the original Hyperloop Alpha documentation, it consists of a “low pressure tube with capsules that are transported… on a cushion of air, featuring pressurized air and aerodynamic lift. The capsules are accelerated via a magnetic linear accelerator affixed at various stations on the low pressure tube with rotors contained in each capsule.”
With capsules literally ‘shot’ between stations at speeds of up to 760mph, a journey between London and Glasgow could take just 30 minutes.
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction. But Musk was serious about the idea; serious enough to open source the concept; serious enough to encourage private companies to pursue it; and serious enough that Texas A&M University hosted a SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design Weekend, which gathered together 124 student engineering teams representing 27 US states and 20 countries.
The teams, including the likes of Imperial College London, MIT, Stanford and Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), were selected by SpaceX to present concepts for future Hyperloop Pods. The winners will get a chance to build and test their prototypes on a one-mile, half-scale Hyperloop test track that will be constructed next to the SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California.
MIT took top honours at the Design Weekend, proposing: “a model for electrodynamic suspension that relies on powerful magnets placed over a conducting plate, which in this case is the aluminum track SpaceX is building.” The magnets generate lift, ultimately allowing a 250kg test pod to achieve a speed of 110 metres per second.
The final phase of the Hyperloop competition will be held in the summer of 2016.
The Hyperloop is just one of a number futuristic transportation projects that could change how we travel in the years ahead. Think flying cars like the AeroMobil Flying Roadster 3.0; drone speeder bikes like the MA Hover Bike; personal jetpacks and self-driving Teslas. Some of these dreams are already a reality… — Dean Evans (@evansdp)