Maglev Train: An engineering masterpiece

The word ‘Maglev’ is derived from the words ‘magnetic levitation’. Maglev is a train transportation system where two sets of magnets levitate and push the Maglev train forward. The first set repels and lifts the train upwards while another set pushes the train forward as an entire train is now frictionless.

In addition, Maglev trains are much faster than traditional trains. So, we can compare it to an airliner. Maglev trains ride on the guided path of magnets. The movement of the train is frictionless so these trains are much quieter and move faster. The set of magnets control the stability and speed of the train.

Furthermore, The power consumption of Maglev is comparatively low. The traditional trains use more energy to overcome the drag. The high friction on the traditional rail network consumes more energy. However, Maglev trains consume less energy compared to the traditional rail network. Although, the construction cost of maglev trains is much on the higher side when we compare it to traditional railways.

World’s Fastest Maglev:

How Do Maglev trains work?

There are two types of Maglev technologies. The first one is an electromagnetic suspension (EMS) and the second one is an electrodynamic suspension (EDS) system.

The Electromagnetic Suspension (EMS): In this type of system, the train levitates on steel rail while electromagnets are attached to the train but those are oriented towards the rail from below. This system uses c-shape arms. The upper side of the arm is connected to the vehicle while the lower inside of the arm contains magnets. This type of system can work at any speeds but it needs fine-tuning in track construction as this system is dynamically unstable. Hence, fine track tolerance is the key part of the EMS system.

The Electrodynamic Suspension (EDS): In this system, the guideway and train both exert the magnetic field. As a result, the train levitates due to repulsive and attractive forces of the magnetic field. The superconducting magnets or permanent magnets create a magnetic field. The major advantage of this system is that it is dynamically stable. However, at the stationary position, the system can’t generate enough magnetic flux to levitate the train and hence, it needs wheels until it attains the takeoff speed.

In addition, EDS system needs a track that supports low and high speed as the train can stop anytime due to mechanical or system failures. Furthermore, propulsion coils in the guideway exert a force on the magnets in the train to propel forward. The propulsion coils act as a linear motor, generating a continuously varying magnetic field along the track. This varying magnetic field moves along the track as the train moves forward. The offset between the field exerted by magnets in the train and the applied field moves the train forward.

Advantages of Maglev trains

These type of trains can attain a very high speed. Maglev train had a speed record of 603 km/h in Japan.  The maintenance of the guideway and train itself is very minimal as there is no friction. Furthermore, Maglev trains are more efficient when it comes to energy consumption. This type of train is entirely unaffected by changing weather conditions. Hence, it can work in any climatic condition such as snow, winds and heavy rain. The maglev trains are noiseless. So, you can enjoy the journey peacefully.

Disadvantages of Maglev trains

The maglev train doesn’t work on the existing track. This train needs an entirely new track system. So, the construction cost for this type of train is very high. The superconducting magnets heat up and need some kind of cooling. In addition, this type of trains can’t handle complex terrains like curves around the hill. Hence, it adds to the construction cost of tunneling along the way.

In conclusion, maglev trains are efficient and fast but involve a lot of costs to construct the track. As a result currently, only a few tracks are operational worldwide.

Watch Maglev Train in action:

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