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How MagLev Transports Work

The concept of magnetic levitation revolves around three fundamental components:
  • Abundant electrical power supply
  • Electromagnetic coils that run along the track
  • Powerful guidance magnets installed on the train’s undercarriage

The metal coils that line the track become a magnet once electric current flows through the coils. This repels the guidance magnets on the train, which causes the train to levitate 1 to 10 cm above the electromagnetic track.

An illustration shows how the guideway works.

Once the train is levitated, electric current flows to the coils within the track to create another system of magnetic fields that propels the train along the track. The concept behind this is the motor principle, where force is generated from the cross product of the electric current and magnetic field vectors. The magnetic coils are generated by an alternating current that changes the polarity of the magnetized coils, which causes the magnetic field in front of the train to pull the vehicle forward, while the magnetic field behind the train pushes the train along. Because the train is levitatd, friction betweene the train and the track is non-existent, decreasing mechanical strain and increasing top speed potential.

Magnetic field in front of the train pulls the vehicle forward, while the magnetic field behind the train pushes the train along.

Currently, the two main sponsors of MagLev technology are Germany and Japan. The United States is reconsidering the option to develop MagLev trains while China is planning to install MagLev lines that will connect its major cities as well as between airports and city centres.

1. Bonsor, Kevin. How Maglev Trains Work. How Stuff Works, Inc.      <http://travel.howstuffworks.com/maglev-train.htm/printable>

2. Railway Technical Research Institute.


Glenforest Secondary School, Ontario, Canada
ISTF Project #02-541

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