There are those who prefer planes for speed reasons. There are those who choose trains for the environment. What about a train that goes as fast as an airplane but is environmentally friendly? China has unveiled a new prototype of a Maglev (magnetic levitation) train. It can reach a speed of up to 620 kilometers per hour. The train is as fast as an airplane.
Researchers from Southwest Jiaotong University presented it. The maximum speed of the train is probably the fastest of any vehicle traveling on earth. And yes, it is approaching the speed of some planes, local media reports. However, the developers are working to expand it to 800 kilometers per hour!
China already has the fastest commercial magnetic levitation service in the world – Shanghai Transrapid. It runs at a top speed of 430 kilometers per hour and was opened in 2002. However, the new Maglev train would provide even faster connections between Chinese cities.
The new project will be based on superconducting technology, say the developers. Superconductivity occurs when the electrical resistance tends to zero when cooling to very low temperatures. The superconducting state would be the key to supporting faster and more efficient Maglev vehicles, the specialists explain.
The Chinese project would be a serious rival for a magnetic levitation line due to open in Japan between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027. However, the Chengdu researchers say their technology will be much cheaper. It doesn’t use helium like its Japanese counterparts to achieve low temperatures.
Not very close
‘Liquid helium is very expensive. Here we achieve superconductivity at a slightly higher temperature by using liquid nitrogen. That reduces the costs to one fiftieth, ”explains Deng Zigang. He is a researcher at the Key State Tractive Power Laboratory at Jiaotong Southwest University.
The Chinese prototype uses carbon fiber and weighs about half the weight of its bullet train counterparts. The train close to the aircraft will not be operational for a few years. The researchers admit that there are still problems to be solved before the new technology becomes commercially viable. They note that the process could take about six years. But as we all know, time goes by like a train.