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May 14, 2014

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Scientists test ‘super-maglev’ that could reach 2,900kph

A UNIVERSITY in central China has successfully tested in its laboratory a “super-maglev,” a high-speed train that could theoretically hit speeds of up to 2,900 kilometers per hour, or almost three times the speed of a current passenger jet, researchers said yesterday.

Deng Zigang, an associate professioner who led the project at the Applied Superconductivity Laboratory at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, said the super-maglev would run inside a vacuum tube to remove air resistance.

In the laboratory, Deng’s research team built China’s first “megathermal superconducting maglev loop” model, which is 12 meters in diameter. It is used to test run the train.

Though the test vehicle speeds top out at only about 50 kilometers at present, Deng said he could accelerate that speed higher with higher temperatures and a more powerful superconducting maglev ring.

“Maglev train technology in airless tubes removes air drag and pushes speed higher,” Deng said.

In existing maglev operations, if a train speed exceeds 400 kilometers an hour, more than 83 percent of its energy is lost to air resistance.

Deng said he hopes the new research someday will reach beyond land transport and be applicable to space vehicles and advanced military uses.

Deng said there were two phases in the development of the super-maglev.

The first, to develop a ring line for superconducting maglev vehicles that could run at 25 kilometers per hour, was achieved in early 2013.

The second phase was to cover the ring line with a vacuum tube, which accelerated the maximum speed to 50 kilometers per hour.

“The current speed is limited by the small diameter of the ring, which is only 12 meters,” Deng said.

He said he hopes research will push speeds higher.

China’s maglev line in Shanghai was the first in the world to begin commercial operations. It connects Pudong International Airport with a Metro station on the east side of the river downtown.

The maglev, put into service at the end of 2002, has a top speed of 430 kilometers per hour. The 30-kilometer route takes less than eight minutes.

Maglev is short for “magnetic levitation.” Under the technology, trains can attain high speeds and operate quietly through using magnets to ride a few centimeters above a track rather than riding with wheels directly on tracks.


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