Photo courtesy Railway Technical Research Institute
Japan's MLX01 maglev train
Japanese engineers are developing a competing version of maglev trains that use an electrodynamic suspension (EDS) system, which is based on the repelling force of magnets. The key difference between Japanese and German maglev trains is that the Japanese trains use super-cooled, superconducting electromagnets. This kind of electromagnet can conduct electricity even after the power supply has been shut off. In the EMS system, which uses standard electromagnets, the coils only conduct electricity when a power supply is present. By chilling the coils at frigid temperatures, Japan's system saves energy. However, the cryogenic system uses to cool the coils can be expensive. Another difference between the systems is that the Japanese trains levitate nearly 4 inches (10 cm) above the guideway. One potential drawback in using the EDS system is that maglev trains must roll on rubber tires until they reach a liftoff speed of about 62 mph (100 kph). Japanese engineers say the wheels are an advantage if a power failure caused a shutdown of the system. Germany's Transrapid train is equipped with an emergency battery power supply. Also, passengers with pacemakers would have to be shielded from the magnetic fields generated by the superconducting electromagnets. Maglev Accidents
On August 11, 2006, a maglev train compartment on the Transrapid Shanghai airport line caught fire. There were no injuries, and investigators believe that the fire was caused by an electrical problem. On September 22, 2006, a Transrapid test train in Emsland, Germany had 29 people aboard during a test run when it crashed into a repair car that had been accidentally left on the track. The train was going at least 120 mph (133 km) at the time. Most passengers were killed in the first fatal accident involving a maglev train. The Inductrack is a newer type of EDS that uses permanent...