How Maglev Works
Maglev 2000

History of transportation

Superconducting maglev

Learning to levitate

Two key inventions

Null flux suspension

Null flux geometries

LSM propulsion

How the M-2000 system works

M-2000 guideways

M-2000 Vehicles


Maglev FAQ

Learning to levitatetwo key inventions

As the pioneers of superconducting maglev, Powell and Danby made two basic inventions that have been key to its development:

  • The Null Flux Suspension
  • The Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM)

The Null Flux suspension makes the power losses in the guideway from the induced currents in normal metal loops very low. As a result the magnetic drag force on the vehicle is small. In fact, it is much smaller than the air drag force. This is important because maglev vehicles then need much less energy per passenger mile and ton mile than other modes of transport. Moreover, the Null Flux suspension also is inherently and passively stable, and strongly counteracts all external forces (winds, up and down grades, curves, etc.) that try to push the vehicle away from its equilibrium point.

Because the levitated vehicle does not contact the guideway, conventional propulsion cannot be used. Instead, maglev vehicles are magnetically propelled by the highly efficient Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM). In the LSM, a small alternating current in a second set of guideway loops (the LSM propulsion loops are distinct from the loops that levitate and stabilize the maglev vehicle) magnetically push on the superconducting magnets, propelling the vehicle along the guideway.

The superconducting magnets on the vehicle are DC (Direct Current) magnets - that is, their magnetic fields do not vary with time. However, the magnetic polarity -that is, the direction of the magnetic field- of the magnets alternates along the vehicle. Accordingly, the guideway loops experience an alternating wave of magnetic flux as the vehicle moves past. A downwards magnetic flux is followed by an upwards flux, then by a downwards flux, and so on.

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