After reading Elon Musk's PDF about the Hyperloop, one of the key factors that make the system likely to work is overcoming the Kantrowitz Limit
. To explain what that is:
Whenever you have a capsule or pod (I am using the words interchangeably) moving at high speed through a tube containing air, there is a minimum tube to pod area ratio below which you will choke the flow. What this means is that if the walls of the tube and the capsule are too close together, the capsule will behave like a syringe and eventually be forced to push the entire column of air in the system. Not good.
Musk's proposal is clever:
The approach that I believe would overcome the Kantrowitz limit is to mount an electric compressor fan on the nose of the pod that actively transfers high pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel. This is like having a pump in the head of the syringe actively relieving pressure.
Could the Hyperloop actually work?