Livermore's 2004 R&D 100 Awards: Magnetically Levitated Train Takes Flight

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the 1960s, transportation industry planners have sought an energy-efficient design for a train that can glide through air at speeds up to 500 kilometers per hour. This type of train, called a magnetically levitated (maglev) train, is thought to be a viable solution to meet the nation's growing need for intercity and urban transportation networks. However, despite some promising developments, unresolved concerns with the operation and safety of maglev trains has prevented the transition from demonstration model to commercial development. Inductrack, a maglev system originally conceived by Livermore physicist Richard Post, is designed to address these issues. Post's work on ... continued below

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6 p. (0.4 MB)

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Hazi, A September 20, 2005.

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the 1960s, transportation industry planners have sought an energy-efficient design for a train that can glide through air at speeds up to 500 kilometers per hour. This type of train, called a magnetically levitated (maglev) train, is thought to be a viable solution to meet the nation's growing need for intercity and urban transportation networks. However, despite some promising developments, unresolved concerns with the operation and safety of maglev trains has prevented the transition from demonstration model to commercial development. Inductrack, a maglev system originally conceived by Livermore physicist Richard Post, is designed to address these issues. Post's work on Inductrack began with funding from Livermore's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, and in 2003, the technology was licensed to General Atomics (GA) in San Diego for train and transit system applications. This year, members of the Livermore-GA team received an R&D 100 Award for Inductrack's development. Inductrack uses permanent magnets to produce the magnetic fields that levitate the train and provides economic and operational advantages over other maglev systems. It can be adapted to both high-speed and urban-speed environments. In the event of a power failure, the train slows gradually until it comes to rest on its auxiliary wheels. The maintenance requirements for Inductrack are also lower than they are for other systems, plus it has a short turning radius and is designed for quiet operation. Previous designs for maglev systems did not offer the energy efficiency or safety protections that are in the Inductrack design. Electromagnetic systems (EMS) use powered electromagnets to levitate the train. However, these systems are based on magnetic attraction rather than repulsion and thus are inherently unstable. In EMS trains, the levitation gap--the separation between the magnet pole faces and the iron rail--is only about 10 millimeters and, during operation, must be maintained to within {+-}1 millimeter. Position sensors and electronic feedback systems are required to control the magnetic current and to compensate for the inherent instability. This requirement, plus the onboard source of emergency power required to ensure operational safety during a sudden power loss, increases the complexity of EMS trains. In contrast, in electrodynamic systems (EDS), large superconducting magnet coils mounted on the sides of the train generate high-intensity magnetic field poles. Interaction of the current between the coils and the track levitates the train. At operating speeds (above a liftoff speed of about 100 kilometers per hour), the magnetic levitation force balances the weight of the car at a stable position. EDS trains do not require the feedback control systems that EMS trains use to stabilize levitation. However, the superconducting magnetic coils must be kept at temperatures of only 5 kelvins, so costly electrically powered cryogenic equipment is required. Also, passengers, especially those with pacemakers, must be shielded from the high magnetic fields generated by the superconductors.

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6 p. (0.4 MB)

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PDF-file: 6 pages; size: 0.4 Mbytes

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  • Report No.: UCRL-TR-215560
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • DOI: 10.2172/883736 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 883736
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc891930

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Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • September 20, 2005

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 23, 2016, 2:42 p.m.

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  • April 17, 2017, 12:20 p.m.

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Hazi, A. Livermore's 2004 R&D 100 Awards: Magnetically Levitated Train Takes Flight, report, September 20, 2005; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc891930/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.