Hyperloop Revisited — the Edison Spirit Alive and Well

Prologue
Almost exactly four years ago, we ran a story about Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept, a pod based, rapid transit system to traverse long distances. Original literature discussed being able to traverse Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 30 minutes. The article below updates our readers on the significant advances since then.

Original concept drawing for a Hyperloop pod

Original concept drawing for a Hyperloop pod

Imagine a pod that will someday carry human passengers and probably freight too, something that resembles a bus with 16 retractable wheels….perhaps 28 feet long, pointed at the business end, composed of aluminum and fiber composites. Load this structure into a an 11 foot concrete test tube evacuated of air, and shoot it down the track using an electromagnetic propulsion system –think magnetic levitation (Mag-Lev)- and record the results. How about 192 mph in about 5 seconds!

Hyperloop test pod

Hyperloop test pod

Check-out a recent test of the pod and test track:
https://www.teslarati.com/hyperloop-one-192-mph-test-video/

All this work adds up to what engineers call a “proof of concept”; and now the details get filled in to make it practical…and that means lots of hard core engineering tempered with tough-minded business analysis. There will be lots of coordination with safety and environmental agencies, and discussions and analyses to determine where to locate such facilities, the location of station stops, the ergonomics of passenger travel and lots more.

Maybe we shall see these lines located along established high voltage power line rights of way. It makes sense. Those lines move “electrons” (electricity) between populations centers, so why not move people and freight the same way? Perhaps such lines can parallel roads or railroad rights of way too. No doubt there will be very many interesting questions and points of view to be addressed and various constraints to be dealt with.

Thomas Edison would applaud the work done so far and anxiously await more progress!

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison – Home Schooled by his Mother

All you technology/engineering teachers, educators and STEM facilitators…listen up!

Down through the years, the wisdom of Edison’s mother (Nancy Elliot Edison) still rings true to us today. Here are the simple truisms she urged young Tom to keep uppermost in his mind. She home-schooled him when the local one-room schoolhouse could not motivate him. Young Tom was certainly a different kind of learner.

Fortunately, Mrs. Edison was a formally education normal school teacher, but was not practicing at the time, busy with raising her family. Here are the four maxims she taught young Tom…so relevant to your classrooms today.

Samuel and Nancy Edison - Tom’s parents

Samuel and Nancy Edison – Tom’s parents

Do not be afraid to fail. Keep trying, learn from failure; and try again. This later gives birth to the old Edison adage …  “fail your way to success”. Empower young minds to look at the world as an intellectual challenge-often composed of iterative cycles that improve solutions or even the development of new products. Empower students to fail, not be ashamed or overwhelmed by it. That is why erasers are on the backs of pencils!

It is OK to work with your hands and your head. Not everything important comes from books. Experience the world and learn from it. There is a world beyond the classroom that is brimming with learning opportunities. Take advantage of all this information and knowledge-just as valid as what books my teach you. Bring experts from the world of work into class to show the relevancy of school work to life –on-the-job. Every company is a learning campus, filled with on-the-job experts and leaders who can inspire young employees to reach for the stars. Help your students learn early the value of head and hands learning. After all … isn’t this what STEM, technology education and maker spaces are all about?

Young Tom Edison

Young Tom Edison

Read across the entire span of literature, not just what you like. Reading and studying literature brings new ideas into your mind acting as a catalyst for mental stimulation. Throughout his life, Edison read and memorized poetry, prose and literature. This made him a great communicator, able to draw on the great lessons of written culture and history. One of his great historical heroes was Thomas Paine and his writings leading to the Revolutionary War.

Never stop learning, keep improving yourself. This can be seen in the great Edison library and office from which he ran his legendary West Orange Labs. Probably 10,000-20,000 volumes were there at his fingertips to support his enormous appetite for information and knowledge. He knew to lag behind in his constant quest to learn meant competitors would soon catch up. He may have been the first great corporate innovator to consider retaining a corporate library for himself and his staff to use. With the Internet at our fingertips, continuous learning is a snap. Promote this important life lesson.

The Edison home in Milan, Ohio

The Edison home in Milan, Ohio

Throughout his life, Edison credited his mother’s love and patience with giving him a firm footing in the world as a precursor to his great success.

Keep all this in mind when school once again resumes in September. Draw inspiration from the great inventor. Check out this website often, especially its webpage dedicated to free resources for the classroom teacher. Also, check out our sister website at thomasedison.org.

Thomas Edison said, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

 

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Thomas Edison Salutes a New Form of Energy Storage

Since the 1920s about 2% of the world’s electrical capacity has been supplied by pumped hydro installations. These massive hydroelectric storage batteries can respond within seconds, and improve overall grid efficiency. However hydroelectric facilities can be severely site limited; and cause significant impacts on the environment.

Typical hydroelectric pumped storage facility is a large scale, environmentally intense project

Typical hydroelectric pumped storage facility is a large scale, environmentally intense project

What if we had a large storage device that could be recycled indefinitely with no lasting environmental concerns either? Furthermore, what if something else could be used instead of water, with little environmental impact?

Such a concept is called the Advanced Rail Energy Storage system (ARES); and a 50 MW utility-size system is now in operation in southern Nevada. Check it out. The system is also much cheaper than traditional pumped hydro facilities.

An ARES “shuttle train”

An ARES “shuttle train”

ARES energy storage technology employs a fleet of electric traction drive shuttle-trains, operating on a closed low-friction automated steel rail network to transport a field of heavy masses [rocks, concrete, etc.] between two storage yards at different elevations.

During periods where excess energy is available on the grid, ARES shuttle-trains draw electricity from the grid, which powers their individual axle-drive motors, as they transport a continuous flow of masses (rock/concrete) uphill against the force of gravity to an upper storage yard. When the grid requires energy to meet periods of high demand, this process is reversed. The shuttle-trains provide a continuous flow of masses returning to the lower storage yard with their motors operating as generators, converting the potential energy of the mass’s elevation back into electricity in a highly efficient process.

At the Nevada site, shuttle trains move up and down a change of about 3,000 feet. At the end of the system’s 40-year lifetime, the rails are removed followed by regrading of the land back to original conditions—no lasting environmental impacts. Think about this … large wind turbines could also supply the excess energy to charge up this energy storage system!

Edison’s original electric storage batteries can be considered tiny portable pumped hydro facilities. He realized his electric utility equipment would function more efficiently if it could run all the time, even with the daily ups and downs of electric demand. Energy storage would make it possible to charge batteries for use later during the day … in electric vehicles. Certainly, Edison would like this innovative ARES concept!

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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