August 08, 2010

China Working towards 600 Mph Maglev Trains Through Very Low Pressure Underground Tubes for 2020 to 2030

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Southwest Jiaotong University in China is developing a low pressure underground tubes and maglev train which will travel at 1,000 kilometers per hour (600 mph).

This is double the speed of current maglev trains.

According to Shen Zhiyun, academic member of CAS and CAE, China should target the development of high-speed ground transportation with 600 to 1,000 kilometers per hour which should be in operation between 2020 and 2030.

This concept was first proposed by experts from American Land Consulting and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was introduced by Zhang Yaoping, who graduated from Southwest Jiao tong University in Sichuan. He then began to promote the ETT as an “evolutionary transportation” in 2007. Zhang believes the theoretical limit of the speed of the evacuated tube maglev train is close to the first orbital speed and can reach up to 20,000 kilometers per hour (12000 mph).

UPDATE: The $1.5 to 2.95 million per kilometer incremental cost is about 7-20% of the $17-40 million per kilometer of regular maglev lines in China, which is pretty cheap to get over double the speed.

According to a national laboratory specializing in the study of traction, the technology could be in daily use in the next 10 years.

The laboratory at Southwest Jiaotong University told Beijing-based Legal Evening News that it was working on a prototype with an average speed of 500 to 600kph.

A much smaller model train traveling at 600 to 1,000kph in a vacuum tube will be introduced in two or three years, it added.

Shen said the US proposal was for a highly evacuated tunnel. The Chinese version reduces air pressure, making the tunnel easier and cheaper to build.

The tunnel would cost 10 to 20 million yuan (US$2.95 million) more than the current high speed railway for each kilometer (so $5 million more per mile) but the train would be able to travel at 600kph, Shen estimated.

Vactrains have been imagined for over 100 years and have never been built.

A vactrain is a proposed, as-yet-unbuilt design for future high-speed railroad transportation. This would entail building maglev lines through evacuated (air-less) or partly evacuated tubes or tunnels. Though the technology is currently being investigated for development of regional networks, advocates have suggested establishing vactrains for transcontinental routes to form a global network. The lack of air resistance could permit vactrains to use little power and to move at extremely high speeds, up to (4000-5000 mph (6400–8000 km/h) or 5-6 times the speed of sound at sea level and standard conditions

Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT)at wikipedia

How ETT is designed to work: Air is permanently removed (evacuated with vacuum pumps) from two five foot (1.5 m) diameter tubes built along a travel route. Car-sized passenger/cargo capsules travel in the tubes on frictionless maglev. Airlocks at stations allow transfer without admitting air. Linear motors safely accelerate the capsules, for most of the trip they coast through the vacuum without using additional energy. Acceleration energy is recovered by using linear generators to decelerate the capsules. ETT is not pneumatic tube transport (PTT) commonly used at drive-up banks. ETT is claimed to be able to accomplish fifty times more transportation per kWh than electric cars or trains because travel occurs without air resistance or rolling resistance.

ETT is a form of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), accordingly ETT may be networked like freeways, and the automobile sized capsules are automatically routed like internet traffic, so a capsule can exit at any desired branch. Proposed speeds of 350 mph for in-state use and up to 4,000 mph for cross country and global travel.

ETT capsules weigh only 400 lbs, yet like a SUV, haul 800lbs of people or cargo. A twentieth as much guideway material is required to support ETT capsules than to support locomotives. Material savings, and use of automated pipeline production, drops cost to less than a tenth the cost of High Speed Rail, or a fourth the cost of a freeway. With automated passive switching, a single 350mph ETT tube can exceed 16 lanes freeway capacity, further economizing.

ETT versus TR (regular rail)

The US ETT company compares ETT to regular rail.

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