Electromagnetic Propulsion Technology is based on the concepts and applications of electromagnets to enable propelling of an object. This is perhaps the most researched and worked on areas of electric propulsion with greatest possible application in public transport as well as advanced aerospace propulsion systems.
For public transport, it’s been a magnetic levitation technology which is also known as Maglev that has transformed the vary way of public transport. Electromagnetic Propulsion Technology based Magnetic levitation transport is a form of transportation that relies on electromagnetic force for suspension, guidance and propelling. This technology when applied for mass transit system can enable transportation at 500 to 600 km/h (Bonsar, p1; Jahn & Choueiri, p134) .
As a concept, magnetic levitation train was developed by a German Scientist Hermann Kemper and on Aug. 14, 1934, the patent was granted. But it was in Britain, world’s first magnetic levitation service was introduced as a link between two terminals at Birmingham airport. The distance was of 400 meters with top speed at around 10-mph.
In Germany, the TRANSAPID project connects Berlin and Hamburg. The train will move with a speed of 292 kph and would cover the distance of 292 km in flat 60 minutes. In Japan, the advancements have led to the feasibility of moving trains at a speed of 500 kph and on a 7-km test track began in Miyazaki Prefecture, the manned two-car vehicle has been tested and found to register a speed of 400.8 kph in 1987 and a maximum speed of 531 kph in a manned vehicle run on December 12. Again in 1999, the train attained a maximum speed of 552 kph in a manned vehicle run (Maglev, p8).
Maglev follows the system levitation based vehicular movement on the guide way while using electromagnetic forces between super conducting magnets on the vehicle and coils on the ground. This enables the train to move or float about 10 mm above the guide way on a magnetic field. The train as whole is propelled by the guide way and hence there is no on board engine to pull the train. The whole pulling is enabled through the switching of magnetism.
Its basic principle could be understood with the help of magnets. As it is widely known that in case of magnets, you know that opposite poles attract and like poles repel. This principle of attraction and repulsion actually forms the basics behind electromagnetic propulsion based Maglev technology. Electromagnets are used in the above mentioned technology and temporary magnetic pull is created and objects are attraction through a small magnetic field. The three vital components to this system are:
A large electrical power source
Metal coils lining a guideway or track
Large guidance magnets attached to the underside of the train
In the above mentioned list of components, one can figure out that the train doesn’t need any engine and hence this is the most important difference between the maglev trains and other conventional trains. The train as a whole is not pulled in a particular direction rather they are propelled and guided in the magnetic field created by electrified coils in the guideway walls and the track (Bonsor, p2).
As it has been already mentioned, Maglev is the short for magnetic levitation according to which floating and guiding of trains is enabled as per the principles of magnets. Maglev has its own set of advantages as well as disadvantages. The primary advantage of a maglev train is that of maintenance. As the train floats along and there is no contact with the ground and also there are no moving parts, the possibilities of any wear and tear get reduced. The trains as well the track would rarely need any maintenance and hence the higher cost of installation gets compensated in long run. Apart from this, the other important advantage is the total reduction of friction and noise which actually translates into high speed and extremely fast mode of transportation (Maglev, p 28).
Now comes the disadvantages; Maglev guide paths are more costly than any conventional railways system when installation comes into picture. This disadvantage gets amplified with the fact that Maglev system requires a complete new set of infrastructure. The railways infrastructure available for usage is of no use for implementing Maglev and hence a totally new set of system would be implemented. The conventional system would lose its utility and couldn’t have a mutual existence with maglev (Maglev, p 28).
Hence, after a very careful and thorough research, the final verdict is that the Principle of Magnetic Levitation when applied for mass transit would transform the way people move in the future and might provide an able substitute of all expensive air transport.
Bonsor, K. “How Maglev Trains Work”. 2008
Jahn, R. G. “ÒPhysics of Electric Propulsion,Ó” McGraw-Hill, New York. 1968
Magnetically Levitated Trains (Maglev)
Jahn, Robert G. & Choueiri, Edgar Y. “Electric Propulsion” Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology, Third Edition, Volume 5 2002