Maglev trains – a super future

You may or may not have heard of a maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train, but they have been around for a while now, with the first passenger maglev opening in 1984 in Birmingham, UK. It travelled at 26mph (42hph) and was the shuttle for Birmingham International Airport. Now they are capable of travelling up to 361mph (581kph), with a passenger train in Shanghai reaching 268mph (431kph). But researchers are looking into even faster trains, travelling great distances across the globe.

Now we’re not talking an extra 100mph (161kph), or even 200mph (321kph), we’re talking 1,800mph (2,900kph).

Woody from Toy Story with g forces wobbling his face as he flies a rocket

According to research if speeds excess 250moh (402kph) more than 83% of traction energy is wasted because of air resistance. So what could solve this problem?

Vacuums

Not the ones you use at home to clean the carpet, but a near perfect vacuum tube, which means there is basically no air inside, just like space. By crunching some numbers and running some simulations, researchers at the Southwest Jiatong University in China claim the train could reach speeds of up to 1,800mph, three times the speed of a passenger jet. Australia doesn’t seem so far away now does it?

photo credit: Southwest Jiaotong University. The super maglev in the test tunnel

The team have built a prototype and reduced the air pressure by 10 times less than atmospheric pressure at sea level, and it significantly reduced drag on the train and therefore reached higher speeds. The speeds they can test are currently limited by the small size of the test platform, however if longer tunnels are generated, they believe they could reach that maximum speed. That would mean a journey from Paris to Moscow in a straight tunnel would just be an hour.

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