By Mark Halper
Posting in Cities
On the return, leave the UK at noon, arrive in Manhattan 8 a.m. the same day. U.S. firm is selling licenses to patented technology. China's buying. All aboard the vacuum express!
You could call it a pipe dream.
That's how the BBC refers to it on its website, where a feature story reports that one day soon, trains traveling through vacuum tunnels could whisk passengers from New York to London in an hour, hitting speeds of up 2,500 mph.
Reverse the journey, and you could leave the UK at noon and arrive in Manhattan at 8 a.m. the same day.
The key is in the vacuum. Suck the air out of a transatlantic tunnel, and you eliminate resistance to the vehicle. In the oceanic version, engineers would tether the tunnel at a fixed depth.
The "vactrain" is not a new concept. Robert Goddard, who created the first liquid fuel rocket, designed a prototype over 100 years ago, with the idea of zipping people around between U.S. cities. But they haven't been economically feasible, or even fast enough.
Now, the latest concept in vactrains could make the difference. It combines the technology with magnetic levitation, in theory supporting speeds of up to 2500 mph according to the BBC. That's an order of magnitude faster than today's high speed rail, which tends to travel at just under 200 mph.
American engineer Daryl Oster has designed a 6-person capsule traveling through a 1.5 meter (5 feet) diameter vacuum tube. He has sold 60 licenses for his patented evacuated tube transport (ETT) technology, including 12 to China.
Oster likes to refer to it as "space travel on Earth." The website for his Crystal River, Fl. company ET3 (it describes itself as an "open consortium'), boasts possible speeds of up to 4,000 mph, faster even than the 2,500 mph reported by the BBC.
It claims that it could "provide 50 times more transportation per kWh (kilowatt hour) than electric cars or trains," that construction would cost a tenth of high-speed rail and a quarter of freeways, and that a New York-to-Beijing trip would take 2 hours.
"New York to L.A. in 45 minutes," it states.
In the BBC story, Oster says the train could be ready in less than 10 years. The most ideal implementations would be between cities separated by dry, flat unpopulated terrain that doesn't freeze, he notes, adding that China and India hold the most promise.
Another vactrain developer, Dr. James Powell - the co-inventor of Maglev transportation technology and also a nuclear inventor - has proposed a system called Startram that would launch objects into orbit from a cannon-like tunnel.
The idea has plenty of supporters, including MIT's Ernst G. Frankel, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering and ocean engineering, who experimented with "evacuated tubes" in the 1990s. Frankel proposed a Boston-to-New York vactrain that would take 40 minutes, compared to the normal 4 hours. But it would not have outperformed existing bullet train technologies from Japan and China.
MIT's Frankel says the time is now right.
“Our rail technology is almost 100 years old,” he tells the BBC. “Our airways are becoming terribly congested, and getting to, from and through airports is very time consuming."
Vactrains certainly have been a fixture of science fiction.
"Vacuum trains do feature in movies like Star Trek and Logan’s Run," notes the BBC. "Whilst in the dystopian future of Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury describes a 'silent air-propelled train' that 'slid soundlessly down its lubricated flue in the earth'."
Is this the last step before teleporting? While "beam me up Scotty" isn't around the corner, perhaps "Hoover me up" is. Vactrains may one day give a whole new, positive, meaning to H. Ross Perot's old derogatory "giant sucking sound" phrase.
Images: ET3 website
In the 1870s a similar system, based on pneumatics, ran under New York City for a few years:
More SmartPlanet high speed rail coverage here
Jun 4, 2012
Its a technology which will overcome technical complexities such as magnetic levitation, ocean currents & pressure, sea traffic movements, massive infrastructure, complex vacuum systems, extreme emergencies, massive rescue efforts, an unknown number of engineers, cost overrun, unforeseen events. Still it may be achievable, but let us first implement Maglev tech in existing rail network by making it cheap.
While I think long distance travel is a nightmare with jets spewing their pollution at high levels. They should be looking at fixing the problem of Work Commuters, you want to talk about sucking fuel and pollution to move one person to work (in the West) and our antiquated Rail (in the east) They should be investing in systems like Skyweb Express by Taxi 2000 why aren't our powers to be investing in systems like this where you control your carbon output at a single source and move millions of people efficiently. People have many reasons for long distance travel, I feel that solution is the real vacuum of Space, Up then down at your destination. I think Virgin-Atlantic is at the forefront of this, he is playing with it now but the studies with propulsion are advancing quickly. Especially when they figure out Higgs-Boson, moving atoms through atoms without damage.
Train technology needs to be supported on a bi-partisan level for our nation to move forward. Politics it seems has destroyed our country. Please wake up.
Great. The world is ready for fast efficient inter-continental train travel, and here in the US we have made the train look like a dinosaur. Still disinterested? Still confused about the trains future?
Donald Fagen's penned 'I.G.Y' (International Geophysical Year), describing a utopian view of the world from 1957. The lyrics: [q]On that train all graphite and glitter Undersea by rail Ninety minutes from New York to Paris Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K.[/q] He was a few years off in the prediction (I'm still waiting for maglev cars myself), but he got the basics right.
This article is poorly researched; ET3 is NOT a train (or vactrain). The article also improperly uses ET3 artwork to illustrate the work of others. The focus of ET3 is on travel over distances of 200 to 600 miles. Only if all nations build ET3 to the same standard can it be networked together with a backbone built across the Bering Strait. ET3 does not advocate deep water tubes to cross oceans. We suggest reading et3.com and et3.net and also look up US patent 5,960,543 BEFORE making comments about what ET3 is NOT. A maglev train costs about 20% more than conventional HSR (high speed rail), and a "vactrain" (like swissmetro for instance) costs about three times more than a maglev train. ET3 by contrast costs less than 1/10th as much as conventional HSR, 1/13th the cost of maglev trains, and 1/35th the cost of a vactrain.
Will they also supply the TSA service that you get at the airports?? i like to get a nice feel up before my flight
What a great idea...I hate traveling... http://www.freeinventions.info/
Needs to be train size tunnel - the capital cost is huge and you need to shift thousands of posteriors per hour to pay. And ideally it does freight containers too. Will need aircraft standard safety engineering for leak detection, power failure, pressurisation on vehicle. Speed - supersonic and complete vacuum could be stage 2 after 1psi and 600 mph which aerodynamic design easier and standard aircraft pressurisation kit. And lets build one on land first for a few years testing.
Hi, GoogleEarth tell me the distance between thos 2 towns : 3475 miles. How come a train running 2500 m/h can join the 2 cities in ONE hour ? Did I miss something ? Jacques
I understand there is a hotel named London right in New York city. There must also be several "Londons" (towns and cities) in USA and Canada (e.g. London, Ontario),
Think about building this train like any other train has ever been constructed. This will be a whole new animal. It will not be so far underwater that it will be crushed, but it will be deep enough to avoid surface disturbances. It will make use of simple bounacy compensators to maintain equalibrium. The major problem will be economics and terrorism. How many people can they move with one tunnellvision even if it has two trains moving opposite directions 24/7. Will people pay? What will the ROI be even with full ridership and will it come close to the R.O.I? Sticky widget. : Money, money, money, makes the world go around.
Hollow out a cannon projectile. Put live mouse inside. Shoot the the projectile 20 miles into a lake. Find the projectile. Open the projectile . Examine the mouse. Ha Ha Ha. Okay, you say accelerate slowly... Fine. If the tube is not straight as a gun barrel, the passengers will be squeezed against the cabin walls by g-force during any bends in the tube. Keep dreaming... Better yet... Buy their stock... Buy their licenses.
This train idea sounds way more expensive than they are saying BUT it would be the perfect transport system if you are worried about terrorism. Right now, it is impossible to protect the thousands of miles of track a conventional train uses and it is prohibitively expensive to install anti-missle systems on every aircraft. This train would only have to be protected at the stations.
Unless I missed it, no one seems to have considered what it would do to the human bodies in this train to be traveling at 2,500mph for an hour. This would go way beyond jet lag! I can't imagine anyone voluntarily signing up for this transport, or am I suffering from a lack of imagination?
i just wish there WAS a train here, i have to drive 109 miles every day, id gladly take an old steam train if it meant i didnt need to drive as much. sure trains go through town all the time...carrying grain, or semi trailers, or livestock...no people. as for this train, sounds nice but ocean pressures already pose the risk of implosion, increase the pressure differential and you increase the risk. add to that the need to keep this tube air-tight at all times (hence why they dont wanna go places that get hot and/or freeze bad on rubber o-rings) and the process of constantly pumping out the air (as an aside though subways have similar issues...constantly fighting against encroaching groundwater) as for getting in and out of the train, probably have an air-lock. overall kinda nice but a maintenance nightmare
You can build a 6 person maglev for much less than a full size maglev train. The 5' tube is about the size of some neighborhood drainage pipes.
Systems like this have been proposed since the 1930's. This one will probably go down with the rest.
I remember this from an old sci-fi film - Genesis II by Gene Roddenberry. Any movement in the Earth's crust would move the tunnel. If the passenger compartment slams into the break, forget about it. ;)
I read this story. It was by Jules Verne and was called "An Express of the Future". He came up with the idea of the transatlantic tunnel. Wikipedia has the details. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transatlantic_tunnel How can you patent an idea that belongs to Jules Verne's from 1888? However, building Jules Verne's idea and being the owners and sellers of it makes sense. I just wouldn't give out a patent.
Getting to 2500 mph in 2 minutes, cruise at 2500 mph for about 56 minutes and then slowing down for another 2 minutes is reasonable. Electrically driven linear motors could do it. The vacuum can be created and maintained without too much trouble, just have a large turbine engine suck the air out. The tube would have to be pretty straight and very gently curved. My guess is that like the English tunnel it is 3 side-by-side two larger ones and one smaller service tunnel. Not sure what that buys you with the vacuum though. the real question is what are the economics of building it and operating it compared to the next best thing, like airplances. Jets require no tube, rails and vacuum, only endpoint services like an airport. I am thinking an advanced semi-ballistic rocket flight up 20 miles or more and then gliding to a landing might be cheaper.
With the federal regulations and everything...this will never leave the speculation stage...at least not for a hundred years or so! And come-on folks...Here in the shadow of the Nation's capitol, we are trying to extend the Metro rail 8 miles....8 miles people...and already cost over-runs are going to push this out past 5 billion (that's BILLION...with a "B") dollars! By the time it is all said and done, there is speculation that this 8 mile over land low-speed commuter rail will cost in excess of 1 billion dollars per mile... With this kind of cr@p, how the heck are we to take a story like this seriously? Impossible I say...
I'm sure that terrorists would find this a very inviting target. Security would be most difficult to monitor. No thanks, I'd rather fly.
As you said - a train would accelerate slowly, so cannon example is irrelevant. Chances are they WOULD build it straight too, so that eliminates g-force as a problem. So what's the problem?
security would be a huge issue, not just around the stations, it is fairly easy and inexpensive to create a charge and take it down to a depth of 1000ft, remember that it will only take a detonation anywhere near the tube to cause a catastrophic implosion, it does not have to be so precise as to detonate it on the tube.
Ya, and the same TSA agents at our airports would be screening rail passengers in these train stations. Why the author brought mentions "and getting to, from and through airports is very time consuming" seems stupid. This technology offers nothing new ito solve those head aches.
Remember that what affects a body in motion is relative changes in motion. We're all travelling thousands of miles an hour already through space, and we're fine In other words, it is acceleration or deceleration which we actually feel, not the constant speed we're travelling at. The only exception is when you can feel the consequences such as air resistance. So, if this train were to accelerate gradually, lets say at the same rate as a car would (but for longer) - it would expose you to forces no stronger than a car. Also, Jet lag has nothing to do with how fast you travelled - jet lag refers to being exposed to the time difference when you go from one country to another (so what was your night becomes day - so you're tired).
O-rings in jet engines occasionally fail and have lead to explosions or fires resulting in crashed aircraft. This is one reason they will not likely be used for ET3 seals. Have you ever considered how the old style "picture tube" type of TV could maintain 10ee-7 Torr vacuum (a thousand times higher quality vacuum than needed for ET3) for 30-40 years with only rare failure?
Someone understands scale cost factors! An $20k automobile with 5 seats = $4k/seat. HSR (high speed rail) costs $60k/seat. A 747 jet costs $462k/seat. The 6 seat ET3 capsules (not a train) can be mass produced using 1/8th as much material as an automobile, and cost even less. HSR must be elevated for safety and air-blast issues. Elevated double track must withstand the mass of two 100 ton locomotives passing each other. Elevated double tube ET3 infrastructure must bear the weight of two 1200lb capsules for only a little over a ton of live-load. For this reason ET3 guideway requires 1/35th as much material to build as HSR infrastructure. Tubes are produced using automated equipment for much less labor cost per mile than all the "false work" needed to assemble and unassembled forms for making HSR. I am continually amazed at all the "experts" who comment about the impossibility of ET3 on online blogs (notice that very few of them use their real names). If they would just read the et3 websites (dot com and dot net) and or look up the first patent (US 5,950,543) they would be able to make credible arguments. I am also amazed at the poorly researched "reporting", and the dozens of "reporters" who have never talked with me (including the BBC "reporter" referenced in this article. et3 (at symbol) et3 (dot) com
Thousands of roads and bridges cross fault lines. Occasionally an earthquake (plate tectonic movement) occurs that causes one to fail, and a few people to die. The amount of deaths is less than a 0.01% as much as annual automobile accident deaths. The major safety focus of ET3 is doing something about want kills 99.9% of people in transportation -- failure to control the vehicle, and failure to control the conditions of travel. One of the experts on the ET3 design team is Dr. Kumada a top physicist in Japan. He has studied the ample quake data and concures that ET3 can be actively aligned faster than the earth is capable of moving, and that while crossing fault lines with ET3 will cost more, it will not represent great risk. (NOTE: the Alaska pipeline crosses the Danali fault, there was a major movement (over 1 meter) and no oil was spilled.
You ask how can he patent an idea of a transatlantic tunnel? The answer is he can't, which is why he didn't.. What he DID patent is the specific technology being suggested to make this idea a reality - one of several technological methods which could be used.
I like this discussion on cost, terrorism tunnel etc. while simple mecanic show that this project is unrealistic. Distance NY to London 3475 miles. In 56 minutes you cross only 2333 miles at 2500m/h To reach the speed of 2500 m/h in 2 minutes, the acceleration should be in the range of 1117m/s??, that is 113 times the earth acceleration. Who can stand that acceleration? Form me this project is totaly unrealistic and it is good fun to read the discussions. Jacques
You're right but you forget that this tube wont just be sat on the ocean floor, it'd be 10's, 100's of meters underground, and probably reinforced with metres and metres of outer material to act as a shield against what you describe. It will probably also have constant surveillance.
With ET3, small access portals are distributed along the tubes like exits on a freeway. It is said that 90% of Americans reside within 15 minutes of a Walmart store. A typical international airport serves a population of about 5 million people. 100 ET3 access portals can be economically distributed over the same 5 million population for one access portal for 50k people (about like the frequency of Walmart stores). A typical American is more than an hour from an airport, and the last airport built in the US was DIA at a cost of $4.8B $4.8B could build as much as 1600 miles of double tube ET3 system with a 400mph design speed-- serving a larger area than the typical airport.
We will do 1 G of acceleration for 120 seconds. 1 G = 32 feet/sec/sec So 32 * 120 = a velocity of 3,840 ft/sec or 13,824,000 ft /hour or 2,618 MPH Perhaps 1 G is too high an acceleration. If we instead do 1/2 G then it takes 4 minutes to reach 2,618 MPH I believe my calculations are correct
a lot harder to bring a bomb aboard an aircraft then it would be to place one somewhere along the tube, it would not take that much of a charge to implode a tube that contains a vacuum.
High Speed Rail (and super motorway and bridge) infrastructures are easier to target than ET3. For starters, a single 1200 passenger train has 200 times more people on it than a single ET3 capsule. At the same passenger/hour use factor, ET3 has less than 1/30th the concentration of passengers exposed to a localized event (like a bomb). A terrorist cannot target a specific capsule with a high-power rifle or SAM missile) (as they can a train or jet). All modes are exposed to terror, fortunately terror is responsible for less than 1% of transportation fatalities. All this has been discussed in detail by experts on the "International Maglev Board".
to destroy than an airway route. However surveillance of a trans Atlantic tube would be nearly impossible and even if so trying to respond to a threat that is a 1000 miles from any shore is all but impossible, there is not enough manpower to respond to a threat, and I am not so sure about it being underground in the Atlantic ocean where depths can reach several thousand meters.
Yes, you are right about acceleration. To reach 2500m/h in 120 sec. the acceleration is 9.31m/s*s. When up tospeed, the train has crossed 41.66 miles. However the distance from London to NY is 3475 miles. Obviously you cannot cover this distance in 56 minutes at 2500m/h. Right ? Jacques
Steel wheel trains can be derailed by terrorists without explosives, for instance with a bar of thick steel cut into a wedge shape (placed on a curve), or a portable cutting torch -- no illegal explosives needed. Roads, tunnels, and bridges are all at similar risk to explosives as ET3. Fortunately over 99% of transportation death is NOT due to terror.
Also we do NOT advocate crossing deep oceans with ET3. The best place to cross is the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. It is less than 100 miles, and less than 100 m deep. ET3 will be underground at this point (just like the Chunnel, and the bigger tunnel from Japan to Hokido).
A vacuum in a tube that has to pull a "car" across the Atlantic would have much greater outside force of pressure than an aircraft has inside "cabin" pressure. So of course the tunnel would be more robust, that does not change the fact that it is more vulnerable to hostile intentions than an aircraft. and I never said that the security at the stations would be less stringent that that of an airport! I was saying that that security pretty much ends after the station once the tube descents into the depths of the ocean.
Because airplanes don't have exactly the same pressure differential? It doesn't take much of an explosion to cause the same havoc on an aircraft either. The difference is, an aircraft fuselage has to be lightweight - a tunnel like that being suggested would be substantially more robust. Furthermore - the security checks in terms of bombs will certainly be at least as stringent as they are for planes.