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Maglev in the US

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Maglev in Germany

A different type of first generation maglev system, termed Transrapid, is presently operating in Germany. Instead of using superconducting magnets on the maglev vehicle, the German system uses conventional, room temperature electromagnets. The electromagnets are located on each side of the vehicle, and run along its entire length. These electromagnets are magnetically attracted upwards to iron rails positioned under the edges of the guideway structure. The magnetic lift force then levitates the vehicle.

Since the attractive force between the vehicle electromagnets and the iron rails on the guideway increases as the gap between them decreases, the Transrapid Levitation system maintains stability by servo control of the current that energizes the magnets. Upwards movements of the vehicle are countered by decreasing the magnet current, while downwards movements from the rails are increasing the magnet current.

Rather than relying on the passive stability inherent in the superconducting maglev system, where any small displacement from the equilibrium suspension point is automatically countered by an induced magnetic force in the guideway, the Transrapid system thus relies on active stabilization to maintain levitation of the maglev vehicles. The gap between the vehicle and the guideway is continuously monitored, and the current in the electromagnets continuously adjusted on a fast time scale of thousandths of a second, so as to maintain a constant value for the vehicle guideway gap. The magnitude of the gap is small, about 3/8ths of an inch. In comparison, superconducting maglev operates with a larger vehicle/guideway gap, typically on the order of 4 to 6 inches. The large gap allows the tolerances for construction of superconducting maglev guideways to be greater. Greater tolerances enable lower guideway cost and reduce sensitivity to earth settling, thermal expansion effects and earthquake movements.

Transrapid has demonstrated safe and reliable operation of its Maglev vehicles at speeds up to 280 mph on its 35 kilometer test track in Emsland, Germany, on which it has carried hundreds of thousands of passengers. Transrapid has been certified as ready for commercial service. China has indicated that it plans to build a system for the Shanghai Airport.


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