A Train as Fast as an Aeroplane – Maglev Train

Maglev trains

Image Credit: Flickr User Edwin, via CC

Can a train travel as fast as an airplane? Yes, the Maglev train does move at speeds comparable to air travel. And to make things interesting it does not travel on the rails, it floats on a cushion of air just above a single rail! Another very interesting fact about this train is that it does not have an engine to pull it along. It moved by the forces of magnetism. Floating with the help of magnetism is called MAGnetic LEVitation, hence the name MAGLEV.

Can you guess why this train does not make any sounds like the other trains? Well, the other trains make noise while moving because of the friction between the rails and the wheels. Here since there is no friction, there is no sound. Absence of friction also explains why the train can move so fast because there is nothing to stop it. The Maglev can attain a high speed of almost five hundred kilometers per hour. These trains are preferred over other trains because of their fast speeds.

How does it work?

So how do the forces of magnetism help the Maglev move? If you have ever played with magnets, you will know that the opposite poles – the north pole and the south pole of magnets attract and the like poles repel or push back. These principles are used very efficiently in moving the maglev train. How so? Let us see. The fact that the like poles repel is used to make the train float. There are large magnets on the underside of the Maglev train. Coils run on either side of rails below the train. Electricity is passed through the coils to magnetize them. These coils repel the magnets under the Maglev train, and this lifts the whole train till it floats a few centimeters over the train!

Now the train is floating in the air, but how does it move?

The walls on the either side of the track are the guideway walls. They also have coils in them. Once the train is floating, electric currents are passed through these coils, causing a system of magnetic forces that moves the train forward at a fast speed. It is that simple.

World’s first commercial maglev train is in Shanghai that runs between Pudong International Airport and the Lujiazui financial district. The thirty kilometer ride takes only 8 minutes. Wow!

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