Sunday November 30, 2003
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The Transrapid in Shanghai has set a new world for commercial railway systems of 501 kmh (311 mph). The maglev (magnetic levitation) train, which has no wheels, axels, engine or transmission, broke the 500 kmh mark on November 12 on the 30 km track between Long Yang Station and Pudong International Airport whilst another vehicle passed at 430 kmh on the adjacent track or "guideway".
The magnetic levitation of trains was first patented in 1934 by Hermann Kemper and his idea has taken the best part of a century to be realised.
The non-contact maglev system hovers 160mm above the track via powerful, electronically controlled support magnets located on both sides along the entire length of the vehicle. Magnets on the vehicle and in the guideway are also used to control the guidance and propulsion systems. As well as delivering a power-efficient, comfortable and low-maintenance means of transportation, the 160mm clearance ensures that the vehicle can easily pass-over any small oblects that might be blown onto the guideway.
Transrapid requires less power than its air conditioning equipment in order to hover. It can levitate for up to an hour without external energy and the on-board batteries are recharged by linear generators integrated into the support magnets.
The electric motor that drives the system is actually stretched underneath the length of the guideway. The speed is regulated by varying the frequency of the alternating current and the field is reversed to stop the vehicle - the motor then becomes a generator and acts as a frictionless brake. The energy from braking is also recycled back into the network.
The Transrapid vehicles have a minimum of two sections with around 90 seats in each and high-speed freight transportation is also envisioned as an application for the system.
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