The hoopla of the Hyperloop
Have a hankering for a Dungeness crab dinner at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, but then want to have dessert while checking out Sunset Strip in Hollywood? That's a crazy request, right? You would need something out of science fiction to transport you that distance, that fast.
Or maybe you just need the creative mind of Elon Musk.
The man behind the electric cars of Tesla Motors and the private space transport company SpaceX has thought of another way to travel – the Hyperloop.
Musk mentioned his idea, which would allow individuals to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, earlier this year and the scientific, technology, and energy communities have since been all atwitter with speculation on how such a system would work.
Musk said it would be “a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table.” What does that mean? Will it be a giant pneumatic tube? It will all be done with high powered magnets, right? Air jets? Rubber bands and grease?
To move a person nearly 340 miles in 30 minutes you would need to be traveling at about 700 mph. To accomplish that there can be no friction and very little aerodynamic drag. Creating a vacuum would eliminate air resistance, but how would the vehicle be propelled? There is something called acoustic levitation.
According to Sebastian Anthony, of ExtremeTech.com, “This technique involves an acoustic phenomenon called standing waves — essentially, waves that are held in place by interference. If you imbue these waves with enough power (volume) and hit just the right frequency, you can levitate an object.
“Standing waves, as the name implies, don’t move — but [engineers] Björn Smedman and Charles Alexander both theorize that, if you pump these waves into a loop (which we assume the Hyperloop is), and change up the acoustic parameters slightly, then it might be possible to carry vehicles on the edge of these waves as they travel around the loop.
“If you pump enough power into the acoustic wave (i.e. increase the amplitude), the air density increases but the relative air velocity drops. In effect, the vehicle in the wave is stationary, in reference to its surroundings. Eventually, as the sound wave gets stronger and stronger, you achieve almost adiabatic travel — travel that loses no energy at all to the environment via drag or friction.”
The project would have a price tag of about $6 billion, which seems expensive until you realize that there is a high-speed rail service system being proposed to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco for about $60 billion.
Also, Musk insists his Hyperloop would not use existing tunnels and would be powered only by solar energy. Plus, he has said that this system “can never crash” and would be “immune to weather.”
Is he about to reinvent mass transportation or will this be his Segway (Dean Kamen’s overhyped personal transport vehicle)? The world will find out on Aug. 12 when Musk will reveal his plans for the Hyperloop. Then, perhaps, we can get back to enjoying that delicious Dungeness crab dish.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly