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How the Hyperloop Works

19 August 2017

The days of spending half of your vacation sitting in a car, or on long plane rides with multiple stopovers, may be coming to an end in the near future. Hyperloop One would reduce a trip from Melbourne to Sydney to just 55 minutes, compared to 9 hours by car, a theoretical time of 3 hours 15 minutes by high-speed train or 1 hour and 15 minutes by jet. But what exactly is a hyperloop and how does it work?

Hyperloop One's version of a hyperloop consists of a sealed pod in a low-pressure tube propelled at high speeds. It moves using a linear motor, which is an electric motor with a fixed stator and a rotor that is unrolled into a flat orientation. The rotor is mounted to the pod and produces a linear force instead of a rotating motion as it moves over the stator. The concept of using linear motors for transportation is not a new one. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority at Disneyworld has been using linear synchronous motors since it opened in 1975. However, linear motors alone are not enough to create the high speeds attainable by the hyperloop.

Hyperloop One uses magnetic levitation to lift the pod off the track and guide it as it moves, creating a friction-free track. Almost all of the air in the tube surrounding the pod is removed to create the same environment found at 200,000 feet above sea level. The combination of the linear motor, magnetic levitation and low-pressure tube reduces drag so that only a small amount of electricity is needed to propel the pod at speeds as high as 670 miles per hour. This creates a more cost-effective system than high-speed rail or airline transportation.

See the video of Hyperloop One's successful phase 2 test here.

To contact the author of this article, email ken.thayer@ieeeglobalspec.com


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