High speed vacuum trains, that see trains hurtling through tight tunnels, describes a kind of futuristic travel seen only in science fiction movies like Star Trek. While everyone know’s that they’re fantasy how would this mode of transportation then change our lives, our schedules and our reality if they could be developed?
Also know as “Vactrains” would provide transportation faster than that by a plane, with a typical flying time between Los Angeles and New York of approximately 5 hours, reduced to just 45 minutes and the journey between London and New York in just an hour, in comparison to the regular 8 hour flight. That’s just one example of how it could change our very lives.
While different designs have emerged, over time, the principle behind them is similar: pump all of the air out of a sealed tunnel and then shoot trains or capsules through them. These ‘evacuated tubes’ could be bored through rock, or laid on ground with conventional tracks. Some designs also enable them to cross oceans through large-bore pipes tethered at a fixed depth, but this idea is still very much theoretical.
In fact, today, there are teams in the US, China and other countries working on this very concept, with some even predicting their arrival within 10 years, that sees passengers commuting on a train travelling at speeds up to 4,000 km/h, theortetically speaking.
Ernst G Frankel, Emeritus Professor of mechanical engineering and ocean engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that “The advantage of a vacuum tube is that you can achieve high speeds. It is able to do this because there is little air resistance to slow the train down. Air resistance is a large part of the rolling resistance of a normal train.”
A company called “ET3” is working toward pushing this technology. This is how it describes itself:
ET3 is literally “Space Travel on Earth”. ET3 is silent, low cost, safe, faster than jets, and is electric.
Car sized passenger capsules travel in 1.5m (5′) diameter tubes on frictionless maglev. Air is permanently removed from the two-way tubes that are built along a travel route. Airlocks at stations allow transfer of capsules without admitting air. Linear electric motors accelerate the capsules, which then coast through the vacuum for the remainder of the trip using no additional power. Most of the energy is regenerated as the capsules slow down. ET3 can provide 50 times more transportation per kWh than electric cars or trains.
Here’s a look at what the “capsules” would look like on a Vactrain:
With the Eurostar already transporting passengers daily between the UK and a select few European cities that involves some underwater travel and the high-speed trains used by commuters in China maybe the Vactrain isn’t as far off as we thought.
What do you think of the idea of the Vactrain concept becoming a reality?