A multifaceted team of graduate students at the University of Arizona will climb aboard a solar-powered bullet train between Tucson and Phoenix this spring – metaphorically, that is.
The team is analyzing the conditions under which very high-speed solar-powered rail between the two cities would make economic sense.
The project blends solar energy and green technologies with high-speed trains and public transit, giving the students a chance to research several fields that are creating headlines today in science, technology and public policy.
The team consists of MBA students along with master's students in civil engineering and materials science engineering, with economist and energy expert Paul Portney, former dean of the Eller College of Management, as faculty advisor.
This multidisciplinary collaboration is intended to bring a range of skills and perspectives together in examining a compelling business case.
Over the course of the semester, the team will produce a spreadsheet model that can be used by SolarBullet.org, the citizens' group leading the campaign to build a sun-powered bullet train that could link Tucson and Phoenix in as little as 33 minutes.
When this tool is complete, the campaign will be able to generate and compare different scenarios as they build the business and technical case for the train.
"This project is a small public-private partnership of our own," said Tucson resident Ted L. Hullar, former chancellor of UC Davis and chair of the SolarBullet campaign.
In addition to thanking the Eller College for its leadership in bringing this team together, Hullar also expressed gratitude to UA professor Joe Simmons, head of the department of materials science and engineering and director of the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy.
Simmons recruited two master's-level engineering students for the team and helped to obtain the funding that made the project possible.