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Magnetic levitation

Magnetic levitation, maglev, or magnetic suspension is a method by which an object issuspended with no support other than magnetic fields. Magnetic pressure is used to counteract the effects of the gravitational and any other accelerations. Earnshaw's theorem proves that using only static ferromagnetism it is impossible to stably levitate against gravity, but servomechanisms, the use of diamagnetic materials, superconduction, or systems involving eddy currents permit this to occur. In some cases the lifting force is provided by magnetic levitation, but there is a mechanical support bearing little load that provides stability. This is termed pseudo-levitation. Magnetic levitation is used for maglev trains, magnetic bearings and for product display purposes.


Magnetic materials and systems are able to attract or press each other apart or together with a force dependent on the magnetic field and the area of the magnets, and a magnetic pressure can then be defined. The magnetic pressure of a magnetic field on a superconductor can be calculated by:

where Pmag is the force per unit area in pascals, B is the magnetic field just above the superconductor in teslas, and 0 = 4107 NA2 is the permeability of the vacuum.

Static stability means that any small displacement away from a stable equilibrium causes a net force to push it back to the equilibrium point. Earnshaw's theorem proved conclusively that it is not possible to levitate stably using only static, macroscopic, paramagnetic fields. The forces acting on any paramagnetic object in any combinations of gravitational, electrostatic, and magnetostatic fields will make the object's position, at best, an unstable equilibrium along at least one axis, and it can be unstable along all axes. However, several possibilities exist to make levitation viable, for example, the use of electronic stabilization or diamagnetic materials (since relative magnetic permeability is less than one); it can be shown that diamagnetic materials are stable along at least one axis, and can be stable along all axes. Conductors can have a relative permeability to alternating magnetic fields of below one, so some configurations using simple AC driven electromagnets are self stable. Dynamic stability occurs when the levitation system is able to damp out any vibration-like motion that may occur.


For successful levitation and control of all 6 axes (3 spatial and 3 rotational) a combination of permanent magnets and electromagnets or diamagnets or superconductors as well as attractive and repulsive fields can be used. From Earnshaw's theorem at least one stable axis must be present for the system to levitate successfully, but the other axes can be stabilised using ferromagnetism. The primary ones used in maglev trains are servo-stabilized electromagnetic suspension (EMS), electrodynamic suspension (EDS), and experimentally, Inductrack.

1.Mechanical constraint (pseudo-levitation)

Mechanical constraint (in this case the lateral restrictions created by a box) can permit pseudo-levitation of permanent magnets With a small amount of mechanical constraint for stability, pseudolevitation is relatively straightforwardly achieved. If two magnets are mechanically constrained along a single vertical axis, for example, and arranged to repel each other strongly, this will act to levitate one of the magnets above the other. Another geometry is where the magnets are attracted, but constrained from touching by a tensile member, such as a string or cable. Another example is the Zippe-type centrifuge where a cylinder is suspended under an attractive magnet, and stabilized by a needle beading from below.


Diamagnetism is the property of an object which causes it to create a magnetic field in opposition to an externally applied magnetic field, thus causing a repulsive effect. Specifically, an external magnetic field alters the orbital velocity of electrons around their nuclei, thus changing the magnetic dipole moment. According to Lenz's law, this opposes the external field. Diamagnets are materials with a magnetic permeability less than 0 (a relative permeability less than 1). Consequently, diamagnetism is a form of magnetism that is only exhibited by a substance in the presence of an externally applied magnetic field. It is generally quite a weak effect in most materials, although superconductors exhibit a strong effect. Diamagnetic materials cause lines of magnetic flux to curve away from the material, and superconductors can exclude them completely (except for a very thin layer at the surface).

3.Direct diamagnetic levitation

A live frog levitates inside a 32 mmdiameter vertical bore of a Bitter solenoid in a magnetic field of about 16teslas at the High Field Magnet Laboratory of the Radboud Universityin Nijmegen the Netherlands. Direct link to video A substance that is diamagnetic repels a magnetic field. All materials have diamagnetic properties, but the effect is very weak, and is usually overcome by the object's paramagnetic or ferromagneticproperties, which act in the opposite manner. Any material in which the diamagnetic component is strongest will be repelled by a magnet.

Earnshaw's theorem does not apply to diamagnets. These behave in the opposite manner to normal magnets owing to their relative permeability of r < 1 (i.e. negative magnetic susceptibility). Diamagnetic levitation can be used to levitate very light pieces of pyrolytic graphite or bismuth above a moderately strong permanent magnet. As water is predominantly diamagnetic, this technique has been used to levitate water droplets and even live animals, such as a grasshopper, frog and a mouse. However, the magnetic fields required for this are very high, typically in the range of 16 teslas, and therefore create significant problems if ferromagnetic materials are nearby. The minimum criterion for diamagnetic levitation is

, where: is the magnetic susceptibility is the density of the material g is the local gravitational acceleration (9.8 m/s2 on Earth) 0 is the permeability of free space B is the magnetic field is the rate of change of the magnetic field along the vertical axis.

Assuming ideal conditions along the z-direction of solenoid magnet:

Water levitates at Graphite levitates at

4.Diamagnetically-stabilized levitation
A permanent magnet can be stably suspended by various configurations of strong permanent magnets and strong diamagnets. When using superconducting magnets, the levitation of a permanent magnet can even be stabilized by the small diamagnetism of water in human fingers.

Superconductors may be considered perfect diamagnets (r = 0), as well as the property they have of completely expelling magnetic fields due to the Meissner effect when the superconductivity initially forms. The levitation of the magnet is further stabilized due to flux pinning within the superconductor; this tends to stop the superconductor leaving the magnetic field, even if the levitated system is inverted. These principles are exploited by EDS (Electrodynamic Suspension), superconducting bearings,flywheels, etc. In trains, a very strong magnetic field is required to levitate a massive train, the JRMaglev have superconducting magnetic coils. JRMaglev levitation is not by Meissner effect.


The attraction from a fixed strength magnet decreases with increased distance, and increases at closer distances. This is unstable. For a stable system, the opposite is needed, variations from a stable position should push it back to the target position. Stable magnetic levitation can be achieved by measuring the position and speed of the object being levitated, and using a feedback loop which continuously adjusts one or more electromagnets to correct the object's motion, thus forming a servomechanism. Many systems use magnetic attraction pulling upwards against gravity for these kinds of systems as this gives some inherent lateral stability, but some use a combination of magnetic attraction and magnetic repulsion to push upwards. Either system represents examples of ElectroMagnetic Suspension (EMS). For a very simple example, some tabletop levitation demonstrations use this principle, and the object cuts a beam of light to measure the position of the object. The electromagnet is above the object being levitated; the electromagnet is turned off whenever the object gets too close, and turned back on when it falls further away. Such a simple system is not very robust; far more effective control systems exist, but this illustrates the basic idea. EMS magnetic levitation trains are based on this kind of levitation: The train wraps around the track, and is pulled upwards from below. Theservo controls keep it safely at a constant distance from the track.

Induced currents
These schemes work due to repulsion due to Lenz's law. When a conductor is presented with a time-varying magnetic field electrical currents in the conductor are set up which create a magnetic field that causes a repulsive effect.

Strong focusing
Earnshaw's theory strictly only applies to static fields. Alternating magnetic fields, even purely alternating attractive fields, can induce stability and confine a trajectory through a magnetic field to give a levitation effect.

Most of the levitation techniques have various complexities. The power requirements of electromagnets increase rapidly with load-bearing capacity, which also necessitates relative increases in conductor and cooling equipment mass and volume. Superconductors require very low temperatures to operate, often helium cooling is employed.

Maglev transportation
Maglev, or magnetic levitation, is a system of transportation that suspends, guides and propels vehicles, predominantly trains, using magnetic levitation from a very large number of magnets for lift and propulsion. This method has the potential to be faster, quieter and smoother than wheeled mass transit systems. The technology has the potential to exceed 6,400 km/h (4,000 mi/h) if deployed in anevacuated tunnel. If not deployed in an evacuated tube the power needed for levitation is usually not a particularly large percentage and most of the power needed is used to overcome air drag, as with any other high speed train. The highest recorded speed of a maglev train is 581 kilometers per hour (361 mph), achieved in Japan in 2003, 6 km/h faster than the conventional TGV speed record. This is slower than many aircraft, since aircraft can fly at far higher altitudes where air drag is lower, thus high speeds are more readily attained.

Magnetic bearings

Magnetic bearings Flywheels Centrifuges Magnetic ring spinning

Maglev (transport)

Maglev (derived from magnetic levitation), is a system of transportation that uses magnetic levitation to suspend, guide and propel vehicles from magnets rather than using mechanical methods, such as friction-reliant wheels, axles and bearings. Maglevs are not mechanical rail technology. Maglev transport is a means of flying a vehicle or object along a guideway by using magnets to create both lift and thrust, albeit only a few inches above the guideway surface. High-speed maglev vehicles are lifted off their guideway and thus move more smoothly, quietly and require less maintenance than wheeled mass transit systems regardless of speed. This non-reliance on friction also means that acceleration and deceleration can far surpass that of existing forms of transport. The power needed for levitation is not a particularly large percentage of the overall energy consumption; most of the power used is needed to overcome air resistance (drag), as with any other high speed form of transport. The highest recorded speed of a Maglev train is 581 km/h (361 mph), achieved in Japan by the CJR's MLX01 superconducting maglev in 2003, 6 km/h (3.7 mph) faster than the conventionalTGV wheel-rail speed record. However, the operational and performance differences between these two very different technologies is far greater than a mere 6 km/h (3.7 mph) of speed. For example, the TGV record was achieved accelerating down a 72.4 km (45.0 mi) slight incline, requiring 13 minutes. It then took another 77.25 km (48.00 mi) for the TGV to stop, requiring a total distance of 149.65 km (92.99 mi) for the test. The MLX01 record, however, was achieved on the 18.4 km (11.4 mi)

Yamanashi test track - 1/8 the distance needed for the TGV test. While it is claimed high-speed maglevs can actually operate commercially at these speeds while wheel-rail trains cannot, and do so without the burden and expense of extensive maintenance, no maglev or wheel-rail commercial operation has actually been attempted at these speeds over 500 kph. Differences in construction costs can affect chances for profitability. Maglev advocates claim that, at very high speeds, the wear and tear from friction along with the concentrated pounding from wheels on tracks accelerate equipment deterioration and prevent mechanically-based trains systems, regardless of speed, from achieving a maglev system's high level of performance and low levels of maintenance;. Indeed, it was concerns about maintenance and safety that convinced Chinese authorities to announce a slowing down of all new high-speed trains to 300 km/h (190 mph). There is a good reason why the rest of the world's fast trains limit their operations to similar top speeds and why the Central Japan Railway (CJR) is planning to build its newest Shinkansen (Chuo) line using maglev technology. There are presently only two commercial maglev transport systems in operation, with two others under construction. In April 2004, Shanghai began commercial operations of the high-speed Transrapid system. Beginning March 2005, the Japanese began operation of the HSST "Linimo" line in time for the 2005 World Expo. In its first three months, the Linimo line carried over 10 million passengers. The Koreans and the Chinese are both building low speed maglev lines of their own design, one in Beijing and the other at Seoul's Incheon Airport. High reliability and extremely low maintenance are hallmarks of maglev transport lines.


First patents
High-speed transportation patents were granted to various inventors throughout the world. Early United States patents for a linear motorpropelled train were awarded to the inventor, Alfred Zehden (German). The inventor was awarded U.S. Patent 782,312 (June 21, 1907) andU.S. Patent RE12,700 (August 21, 1907). In 1907, another early electromagnetic transportation system was developed by F. S. Smith. A series of German patents for magnetic levitation trains propelled by linear motors were awarded to Hermann Kemper between 1937 and 1941. An early modern type of maglev train was described in U.S. Patent 3,158,765, Magnetic system of transportation, by G. R. Greenfly (August 25, 1959). The first use of "maglev" in a United States patent was in "Magnetic levitation guidance system" by Canadian Patents and Development Limited.

In the late 1940s, Professor Eric Laithwaite of Imperial College in London developed the first full-size working model of the linear induction motor. He became professor of heavy electrical engineering at Imperial College in 1964, where he continued his successful development of the linear motor.[10] As the linear motor does not require physical contact between the vehicle and guideway, it became a common fixture on many advanced transportation systems being developed in the 1960s and 70s. Laithwaite himself joined development of one such project, theTracked Hovercraft, although funding for this project was cancelled in 1973. The linear motor was naturally suited to use with maglev systems as well. In the early 1970s, Laithwaite discovered a new arrangement of magnets that allowed a single linear motor to produce both lift as well as forward thrust, allowing a maglev system to be built with a single set of magnets. Working at the British Rail Research Division in Derby, along with teams at several civil engineering firms, the "traverse-flux" system was developed into a working system.

The first commercial maglev people mover was simply called "MAGLEV" and officially opened in 1984 near Birmingham, England. It operated on an elevated 600-metre (2,000 ft) section of monorail track between Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International railway station, running at speeds up to 42 km/h (26 mph); the system was eventually closed in 1995 due to reliability problems.

New York, United States 1968

In 1961, when he was delayed during rush hour traffic on the Throgs Neck Bridge, James Powell, a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), thought of using magnetically levitated transportation to solve the traffic problem. [13] Powell and BNL colleague Gordon Danby jointly worked out a MagLev concept using static magnets mounted on a moving vehicle to induce electrodynamic lifting and stabilizing forces in specially shaped loops on a guideway.[14][15]

Hamburg, Germany 1979

Transrapid 05 was the first maglev train with longstator propulsion licensed for passenger transportation. In 1979, a 908 m track was opened in Hamburg for the first International Transportation Exhibition (IVA 79). There was so much interest that operations had to be extended three months after the exhibition finished, having carried more than 50,000 passengers. It was reassembled in Kassel in 1980.

Birmingham, United Kingdom 19841995


The world's first commercial automated maglev system was a lowspeed maglev shuttle that ran from the airport terminal of Birmingham International Airport to the nearby Birmingham International railway station between 19841995. The length of the track was 600 meters (2,000 ft), and trains "flew" at an altitude of 15 millimeters (0.59 in), levitated by electromagnets, and propelled with linear induction motors. It was in operation for nearly eleven years, but obsolescenceproblems with the electronic systems made it unreliable in its later years. One of the original cars is now on display at Railworld in Peterborough, together with the RTV31 hover train vehicle. Several favourable conditions existed when the link was built: The British Rail Research vehicle was 3 tonnes and extension to the 8 tonne vehicle was easy. Electrical power was easily available. The airport and rail buildings were suitable for terminal platforms. Only one crossing over a public road was required and no steep gradients were involved. Land was owned by the railway or airport. Local industries and councils were supportive. Some government finance was provided and because of sharing work, the cost per organization was not high.

After the original system closed in 1995, the original guideway lay dormant. The guideway was reused in 2003 when the replacement cable-hauled AirRail Link Cable Liner people mover was opened.

Japan 1985

JNR ML500 at Miyazaki, Japan test track on 21 December 1979. 517 km/h (321 mph). Guinness World Records authorization at that time. In Japan, there are two independently developed Maglev trains. One is HSST by Japan Airlines and the other, which is more wellknown, is JR-Maglev by Japan Railways Group. The development of the latter started in 1969, and Miyazaki test track had regularly hit 517 km/h (321 mph) by 1979 but, after an accident that destroyed the train, a new design was decided upon. Tests through the 1980s continued in Miyazaki before transferring a far larger and elaborate test track, 20 km (12 mi) long, in Yamanashi in 1997. In that year, development of HSST started in 1974, based on technologies introduced from Germany. In Tsukuba, Japan (1985), the HSST-03 (Linimo) wins popularity in spite of being 30 km/h (19 mph) slower at the Tsukuba World Exposition. In Okazaki, Japan (1987), the JR-Maglev took a test ride at the Okazaki exhibition. In Saitama, Japan (1988), the HSST-04-1 was revealed at the Saitama exhibition performed in Kumagaya. Its fastest recorded speed was 30 km/h (19 mph). In Yokohama, Japan (1989), the HSST-05 acquires a business driver's license at Yokohama exhibition and carries out general test ride driving.


Maximum speed 420 km/h (260 mph). JR-Maglev features 10 centimeter float (approx. 3.9 inch) above the guideway.

Vancouver, Canada,and Hamburg, Germany 1986-1988

In Vancouver, Canada (1986), the JR-Maglev was exhibited at Expo 86. Guests could ride the train along a short section of track at the fairgrounds. In Hamburg, Germany (1988), the TR-07 in international traffic exhibition (IVA88) performed Hamburg.

Berlin, Germany 19891991

In West Berlin, the M-Bahn was built in the late 1980s. It was a driverless maglev system with a 1.6 km (0.99 mi) track connecting three stations. Testing in passenger traffic started in August 1989, and regular operation started in July 1991. Although the line largely followed a new elevated alignment, it terminated at the UBahn station Gleisdreieck, where it took over a platform that was then no longer in use; it was from a line that formerly ran to East Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, plans were set in motion to reconnect this line (today's U2). Deconstruction of the M-Bahn line began only two months after regular service began that was called Pundai project and was completed in February 1992.