The secret of magnetic levitation of Maglev trains is kept inside the tracks.
The magnetized coil that runs along the track, called the guide, repels the large magnets on the train bogie, allowing the train to levitate 1 to 10 centimeters above the guide. Once the train is levitating, energy is supplied to the coils inside the rail walls to create a unique system of magnetic fields that attract and push the train along the rail. The electrical current supplied to the coils in the rail walls is constantly alternating to change the polarity of the magnetized coils.
Magnetically levitated trains float on an air cushion, eliminating friction. This lack of friction and the aerodynamic designs of the trains allow these trains to reach unprecedented ground speeds of more than 500 km/h, but some magnetic levitation trains are able to reach even higher speeds like the record set by Japan Railway in 2016 with a speed of 601 km/h.
Although all Maglev projects are based on similar concepts, very different prototypes have been developed over time, in Germany engineers have developed an electromagnetic suspension system (EMS) called Transrapid. In this system, the lower part of the train wraps itself around a steel rail. The electromagnets fixed to the bogie of the train are directed upwards and then towards the rail, which makes the train levitate about 1 centimeter above the rail and keeps the train levitated even when it is not moving. Other driving magnets built into the body of the train keep it stable during the journey. Germany has shown that Transrapid prototypes can reach 300 mph with people on board.
Japanese engineers, on the other hand, have developed an electrodynamic suspension system (EDS), which is based on the repulsion force of magnets. The fundamental difference between Japanese and German magnetic levitation train technology is that Japanese trains use super-cooled and superconducting electromagnets. This type of electromagnet can conduct electricity even after the power supply has been cut off. In the EMS system, which uses standard electromagnets, the coils conduct electricity only when there is a power supply. By cooling the coils at very low temperatures, the Japanese system saves energy. However, the cryogenic system used to cool the coils can be expensive and have a significant impact on construction and maintenance costs.
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