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China is planning to build a 1,000 kph locomotive, which would nearly double the current record speed.  (Source: China Daily)

The new train design revives a concept bandied about since the 1960s -- a vacuum tube train. To date the concept has never been commercially implemented.  (Source: Capsule Pipelines)
Design would almost double today's record speed

We've discussed a couple of times the U.S.'s growing gap in high speed rail compared to China.  As fossil fuels become more scarce, more expensive, and more dangerous from a political standpoint, mass transit solutions look increasingly appealing.  High speed rail is particularly promising as it promises not only to reduce fossil fuel use, but also to get you to your destination faster.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) reportedly are preparing a record-shattering 1,000 kilometer per hour train, according to the 
Beijing Times.  

The new trains will make use of a vacuum tube to reduce friction losses.  They will first build a prototype vacuum magnetic suspension train capable of traveling between 500 and 600 kph.  That gives it a shot at breaking the record set by Japan's JR-Maglev train, which achieved a speed of 581 km/h (361 mph).  The record for a traditional railed train was set by France's TGV at 574.8 km/h (357.18 mph).

After the prototype, the group plans to implement a smaller train capable of speeds of as much as 1,000 kph.  Shen Zhiyun, a member of the research team, comments, "The speed can be reached by making vacuum pipelines for maglev trains to run through, with no air resistance."

Daryl Oster, who owns the U.S. patent on evacuated tube (vacuum) rail, now works at the CAE.  Along with Zhiyun and another researcher, Zhang Yaoping, he is leading efforts to deploy the technology.  The team hopes to begin laying ETT rail lines within the next ten years.

It would use less steel than current trains, but would be slightly more expensive.  China is targeting a cost of 200 million yuan ($29.54M USD) per kilometer for its traditional rail.  The Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) rail would cost approximately 210 to 220 million yuan ($31.0M USD to $32.49M USD) per kilometer.

Currently the planned trains travel at 350 kph.  A cost increase of 5 to 10 percent seems a fair tradeoff to score nearly twice the speed.  It's just one more example of how ambitious China is when it comes to high speed rail.

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RE: hmmm
By Solandri on 8/6/2010 1:52:38 AM , Rating: 2
Those aren't vacuum tubes. The just use air pressure to push the canisters around. These trains would be running in an evacuated tube.

On the face of it, it does sound like this train would be much more dangerous due to the vacuum. But bear in mind, at 1000 km/h, any impact accident is pretty much guaranteed to be fatal. The decompression will just finish off anyone who by some miracle manages to survive a crash. (And if you're interested, exposure to vacuum will result in loss of consciousness within 10-15 sec, and death from asphyxiation within 1 minute.)

The bigger technical challenge I think will be maintaining the vacuum in a tube that's several hundred or several thousand km long.

RE: hmmm
By andrinoaa on 8/6/2010 3:01:27 AM , Rating: 1
They didn't specify what type of vacuum. It is simple minded to assume a total vacuum!! How about a partial vacuum? Did you ever contemplate that?

RE: hmmm
By Solandri on 8/6/2010 4:25:57 AM , Rating: 3
Yes it's been contemplated before. The idea is not new.

When you have a plane traveling through a partial vacuum (outside air pressure at 35,000 feet is about 3.5 psi), there's lots of room for the air to move aside and away from the plane. So the air offers little resistance to being pushed out of the way to let the plane through.

Inside a sealed tube is quite a different story. If the air can't be pushed around the train, the train ends up pushing a huge column of air in front of it, which could conceivably make it worse than a regular train in open air. It's even been proposed as a means of helping slow down a train which is approaching its destination. You either have to make the tube much larger in diameter than the train to allow air to pass around it (which multiplies construction and operational costs since the bigger the tube, the more air which needs to be pumped out), or you have to draw a pretty good vacuum.

RE: hmmm
By inperfectdarkness on 8/6/2010 12:15:59 PM , Rating: 2
precisely. transatlantic tunnel. i seriously doubt the ability to actually pull it off successfully for anything other than extremely short distances. tektonic fluctuations are too large for something which requires a precisely sealed enclosure.

RE: hmmm
By ot56 on 8/6/2010 6:30:41 PM , Rating: 2
You actually do not need to worry about teckonic fluctuations for a transatlantic tunnel. Such a tunnel would be composed of tubes designed to be neutrally bouyant at about 100 feet depth. such a tunnel would then float at that depth across the big swamp!

RE: hmmm
By ZoZo on 8/6/2010 3:50:53 AM , Rating: 1
Safety would have to be extremely good.
First of all the tunnel would have to be narrow and sturdy so that the train would never collide head-on with the sides, only slide upon impact.
In the event of an anomaly, a section containing the train should be immediately sealed off and re-pressurized as fast as an air-bag.
The section would have to be quite long to allow the train to decelerate during the anomaly.

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