Term Paper: Magnetic Levitation Propulsion Systems

Pages: 8 (2552 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Incompatibility

Probably the biggest disadvantage of the Maglev technology is its complete incompatibility with the existing system -- train tracks for conventional trains etc. This results in the need for massive investment. (The cost factor will be discussed later in this paper).

Environmental Concerns

Some environmentalists have also expressed concern about the adverse health-effects of the magnetic fields, while supporters of the technology deny this.

Complex Operation and Instability at High Speeds

The technology is not yet fully proven. In the testing stage there have been reports of unstable operation at high speeds. Mitigation of the problem involves complex operation and maintenance solutions that are also expensive.

Cost Factor

In order to get an idea of the current costs for developing a Maglev system, it would be illuminating to examine the costs of the commercial project that is nearest to completion, i.e., the Shanghai Transrapid system. The Chinese government is paying $590 million to Transrapid for the supply of the equipment. It is spending about the same amount on building the infrastructure including stations, guideways, and the power system. This translates into a per mile cost of about 60 million dollars. Transrapid is of the view that this cost can be brought down to about $40 million per mile for a longer system. This is not cheap either, but the company contends that this cost is comparable to development costs of other transit links too, including highways.

Amtrak data shows that it costs up to $5 million per mile to upgrade rail track for conventional high-speed trains and about $10 to $20 million per mile to add a single lane to an existing interstate highway.

The costs of the Japanese design could be cheaper particularly if the effort for developing a better superconducting material (ideally a room-temperature super conductor) is successful.

Other Applications and spin-offs

Development of a commercially viable Magnetic Levitation Propulsion System is a state-of-the-art activity that has the potential of leading to a number of applications and spin-offs in other industries and products. Some of these are discussed below.

Magnetics

Development of high temperature superconducting materials being developed for magnets could find application in other industries such as cyrogenics, and low temperature refrigerators. The development of vibration insensitive magnets might be of use in transportable magnetic resonance imaging systems, military magneto-hydrodynamic systems for ship propulsion and other mobile applications.

Material

The use of nonconducting, nonmagnetic polymer reinforcing materials in concrete necessary for the guideways have the potential for extending the life of concrete structures. If successful, these materials will significantly reduce the life cycle cost when used in the renovation of highways and bridges.

Electrical Systems & Electronics

The development of higher power solid-state devices could have spin-offs for controlling motors in heavy industry, and linear synchronous motors for use in conveyors and manufacturing operations requiring precise control.

Engineering and Vehicle Design

Research in passenger comfort and environment requirements for Maglev trains also apply to other transportation modes too. These include research work in areas of minimizing environmental impacts from routing, magnetic exposure, noise, and air pollution. This has spin-offs in aerodynamics, noise mitigation and precision manufacturing.

Potential Projects in the U.S.A.

The following 7 Maglev projects have been proposed. However, these are in preliminary stages of approval and development and may take a decade or more before completion.

Pennsylvania. A 45-mile project linking Pittsburgh's airport with downtown Pittsburgh. The route eventually could extend to Philadelphia. Proposed by the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

Maryland. A 40-mile project linking Camden Yard in Baltimore and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Union Station in Washington, D.C. Proposed by Maryland Department of Transportation.

Nevada. A 42-mile project linking Las Vegas with Primm, Nev. Proposed by California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission.

Florida. A 20-mile project linking Port Canaveral to the Space Center. Proposed by Florida Department of Transportation.

Louisiana. A 40-mile project linking New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to the airport and the city's northern suburbs. Proposed by Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission.

Georgia. A 40-mile link from Atlanta to Cartersville, Ga., eventually extending to Chattanooga, Tenn. Proposed by Atlanta Regional Commission.

California. A 70- to 75-mile system connecting Los Angeles International Airport to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Ontario Airport and east into Riverside County. Proposed by state of California.

Conclusion

The Magnetic Levitation Propulsion System is a promising technology that has the potential of rapid expansion in the 21st century as one of the leading modes of transportation. However there are many hurdles to cross before this becomes a reality. A lot will depend on how successfully the scientists and engineers engaged in Maglev R&D tackle the problems of cutting costs and ensuring reliability and safety away from the test-tracks and into real life projects.

Appendices

Basic Essentials of a Maglev System

Source: "National Maglev Initiative"

The two principal means of levitation are illustrated above Source: "National Maglev Initiative"

Photo courtesy Railway Technical Research Institute

Japan's MLX01 experimental Maglev train

Photo courtesy Railway Technical Research Institute

Above is an image of the guideway for the Yamanashi maglev test line in Japan. Below is an illustration that shows how the guideway works.

Photo courtesy Railway Technical Research Institute

Bibliography

Bonsor, Kevin. (2001). How Maglev Trains Will Work. Marshall Brain's "How Stuff Works" Web site. [Available online]. Retrieved on April 28, 2002 at http://www.howstuffworks.com/maglev-train.htm

Jesdanun, Anick. (1999). "Seven Maglev Train Finalists." The Associated Press. [Available online]. Retrieved on April 28, 2002 at http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/tech/DailyNews/trains990525.html

Komarow, Steven. (n.d.). "Magnetic train vows super speed." Article in USA Today. [Available online]. Retrieved on April 28, 2002 at http://www.newton.mec.edu/Brown/TE/Maglev/USA_TODAY/usa.html

Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) web-site. Last update 2000/09/08. [Available online]. Retrieved on April 28, 2002 at http://www.rtri.or.jp/rd/maglev/html/english/maglev_principle_E.html

Spotts, Peter N. (2001). "Magnetic Trains Gather Momentum." Article in The Christian Science Monitor dated December 27, 2001. [Available online]. Retrieved on April 28, 2002 at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/12/1219_wiremagtrains.html

Bonsor, Kevin. How Maglev Trains Will Work.

National Maglev Initiative": Maglev Evolution

RTRI online

Spotts, Peter N. Magnetic Trains Gather Momentum.

Summarized from "National Maglev Initiative": Why Maglev?

Komarow, Steve. "Magnetic Train Vows Super Speed." USA Today

Summarized from "National Maglev Initiative": Technological Advancement & spin-offs

Jesdanum, Anick. Seven Maglev Train Finalists

Transportation [END OF PREVIEW]

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