South Korea is seeking to develop a train-like public transport concept that is almost as fast as the speed of sound reaching 1,000km/h, the Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) said Tuesday.
The state-run institute will join forces with other research groups and Hanyang University to build the near-supersonic “train”, which would be able to travel from Seoul to Busan in half an hour.
“We hope to create an ultra-fast train, which will travel inside a state-of-the-art low-pressure tube at lightning speeds, in the not-too-distant future,” said a KRRI official.
“To that end, we will cooperate with associated institutes as well as Hanyang University to check the viability of various related technologies called the hyper-tube format over the next three years.”
Currently, the fastest ground transport in the world is magnetic levitation (maglev) trains, which can travel at around 500km/h
Sand is displaced as a test sled is slowed during the first test of the propulsion system at the Hyperloop One test site in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: AFP
The innovative hyper-tube, or hyper-loop, technology, which transports people in floating pods inside tubes under a partial vacuum, was first proposed by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.
Because there is neither friction from wheels and tracks, nor any air resistance, the hyper-tube pods can theoretically travel almost as fast as the speed of sound.
A maglev train is also free from friction but its speed is slowed by air resistance, particularly as the train speeds up.
Journalists and guests look over tubes following a propulsion open-air test at Hyperloop One in North Las Vegas, Nevada. A proposed Korean hyper-tube train would be based on the same theories underpinning the US project. Photo: Reuters
“Many countries such as the United States, Canada, and China are competing to take the lead in this futuristic technology and we will also try to pre-empt our global rivals,” the KRRI official said.
“The government has focused on interdisciplinary research and this will be the biggest effort we are working on to develop a representative future technology.”
However, there are downsides to the seemingly potential-loaded hyper-tube technology, because it is vulnerable to engineering flaws.
For instance, if a terrorist makes a hole in the tube or a natural disaster damages it so that it loses its negative pressure, pods inside would crash catastrophically.
The KRRI said it would seek to overcome such challenges, in co-operation with its partners.