Many of you may be asking yourself, what is Hyperloop? Let me answer that question. Hyperloop is the future of high-speed transportation; it is three times faster than Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train and even faster than a Boeing 747. In simple terms, Hyperloop is a couple of magnetic pods which levitate inside a tube at a speed of over 1,000 kilometers per hour. Fascinating, right? This invention could make living and working in two different cities something completely normal. What’s even cooler than that fact is that test drives with people inside have already taken place last year, and we could be less than ten years away from making this a reality.
Hyperloop started gaining popularity in 2013 thanks to Elon Musk’s 58-page Hyperloop Alpha paper, which outlined the design, safety, and cost of this concept (Hyperloop Alpha paper). But what makes Hyperloop go so fast? The answer is magnetic levitation. Magnetic levitation is what lets Hyperoloop move at crazy speeds thanks to the lack of friction between the tube-shaped track and the passenger-carrying pods. The general concept is simple: magnets lining the bottom of the pod repel the tube, making the pods levitate as they move.
There are two types of Magnetic Levitations that can be used to make Hyperloop work: passive and active. The engineer’s job is two figure out which one will work best. Passive Magnetic Levitation uses permanent magnets in a specific alignment to create a constant magnetic current that levitates the pod. Active magnetic levitation uses a combination of permanent magnets AND electromagnets, which can manipulate the electric current and the strength of it. Basically, in a case where there are bumps on the track, the pod can move the opposite direction if it’s getting too close to the surface, and it can also add strength and move closer if it’s getting too far away from the track. Another reason that explains why Hyperloop can be faster than cars and planes is because of air resistance. For example, when you are going down a highway and you place your hand outside the window, you feel that air resistance. That wouldn’t happen inside Hyperloop. Basically, the drag resistance goes down to zero, something no other transportation vehicle can do. Theoretically, Hyperloop could go faster than the speed of light, but the companies making it would have to play around with some physics concepts.
Whether it be Elon Musk’s company, or Virgin Hyperloop (started by a former SpaceX worker), we know one thing for sure, 15 years from now transportation may not be the same as we know it today. In fact, it will probably be completely different than what it is today. Full of electric cars, silent airplanes, and surely, Hyperloop will be part of this future.