Evacuated Tube Transport Idea Is 200 Years Old This Year!

Take a look at Evacuated Tube Transport, a proposed transportation system that is (claimed!) to be silent - and faster and cheaper than planes, trains, cars and jets.

(ET3 Evacuated Tube Transport)

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.

Speed in initial ET3 systems is 600km/h (370 mph) for in state trips, and will be developed to 6,500 km/h (4,000 mph) for international travel that will allow passenger or cargo travel from New York to Beijing in 2 hours. ET3 is networked like freeways, except the capsules are automatically routed from origin to destination.

ET3 capsules weigh only 183 kg (400 lbs), yet like an automobile, can carry up to six people or 367 kg (800 lbs) of cargo. Compared to high speed rail, ET3 needs only 1/20th the material to build because the vehicles are so light. With automated passive switching, a pair of ET3 tubes can exceed the capacity of a 32 lane freeway. ET3 can be built for 1/10th the cost of High Speed Rail, or 1/4th the cost of a freeway.

Science fiction fans well remember this idea from works like Robert Heinlein's Double Star (see vacutubes and bounce tubes).

However, the basic idea is actually 200 years old this year! George Medhurst, a mechanical engineer born in 1759, had the same idea.

Here is the relevant bit from Medhurst's 1812 document Calculations and remarks tending to prove the practicability ... of a plan for the rapid conveyance of goods and passengers upon an iron road through a tube of 30 feet in area, by the power and velocity of air.

(Medhurst's 1812 document)

Medhurst's idea was never put into practice. However, pneumatic tube systems have been used for transporting small packages or paperwork since 1836; they were invented by the brilliant Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdoch.

From ET3 via Kurzweil AI; thanks to Moira for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/3/2012)

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