Application of neodymium magnet in high-speed maglev trains

Application of neodymium magnet in high-speed maglev trains

Meta Description: China World Fastest Train – Maglev Train between Shanghai and Hangzhou breaking new record for high speed train.

Have you ever been in a high speed train ? Couple decades ago Japan bullet train “shinkansen” is the marvel of the transportation engineering. In the past decade, with the growing number of train network and high-speed train, China start to overtake the title for world fastest train. How fast is the high speed train ? The speed of the high speed railway is about 300 kilometers per hour or 187 mph.

China World Fastest Train

Application of neodymium magnet in high-speed maglev trains

Year 2021, China starts to debut Maglev train. It can reach speed of 600 kilometers per hour (373 miles per hour). What is a maglev train and how it operates ? Maglev train is short name for magnetic levitation train. Magnetic levitation is the use of levitation magnetic force to make the object in a frictionless, non-contact levitation state.

The maglev train is a new type of transportation consisting of a non-contact magnetic support, a magnetic guidance and a linear drive system. Maglev trains do not have engines, and use magnet attraction and repulsion to propel the train forward. The currently dominant running trains all need wheels to run on the track, while the maglev train runs on the track.

In order to ensure the levitation height of a few millimeters between the maglev train and the track, and to solve the imbalance of the train after the train is loaded with passengers, the maglev train is equipped with a super computer called IGBT, which collects signals through the sensors on the train to tens of thousands of times per second. IGBT calculate the speed, adjust and control the vehicle to make it run normally.

The first plan for the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev High-speed Railway

The Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev high-speed railway was planned in the early 21st century and was approved by the relevant authorities in March 2006. It is planned to start construction in 2006, complete at the end of 2008, and test operation in 2009. It will be officially put into use before the opening of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

At that time, the total length of the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev High-speed Railway was about 175 kilometers, of which 105 kilometers in Zhejiang Province, starting from Hangzhou East Railway Station, and ending at Shanghai South Railway Station after passing through Jiaxing. The high-speed railway runs at a normal speed of 450 kilometers per hour, and the highest speed in the central city area does not exceed 200 kilometers per hour. The entire line is elevated and the long-term train operation is organized in 8 carriages.

The idea of the Maglev train is not new, just like any engineering project , one has to determine cost/benefit and make a good assessment whether it is worth to invest on such project.

The Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev High-speed Railway has been opposed since the date of its planning, mainly as follows:

1. High cost. The investment in the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev project is as high as 35 billion yuan, which is double the cost of the wheel-rail high-speed rail.

2. The advantages of speed and time are not obvious. The maximum design speed of the maglev was 450 kilometers per hour, and the maximum wheel-track speed was 380 kilometers per hour. Based on 175 kilometers, the best time between Shanghai and Hangzhou is 23.3 and 27.6 minutes, respectively, which is a difference of more than 3 minutes. The cost is nearly 20 billion yuan, and the price/performance ratio is extremely low.

3. It is not compatible with the railway system. Magnetic levitation is difficult to change orbit, it can only go from point to point, and cannot be transferred to another line.

4. The maglev train has not yet entered commercial operation, and the technology needs to be further studied and improved. Moreover, once an accident occurs, it will be difficult for the train without power supply to move.

For the above reasons, the construction team of the Zhejiang-Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev Transportation Project was finally cancelled in May 2013, marking the temporary suspension of the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev High-speed Rail Project.

Restart of The Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev high-speed rail project

Application of neodymium magnet in high-speed maglev trains

In December 2019, the “Outline for the Integrated Development of the Yangtze River Delta Region” was released, in which the transportation project stated that the Yangtze River Delta will actively and cautiously carry out the planning and research of the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev Project.

On April 17, 2021, Zhejiang announced at the mobilization meeting to comprehensively promote the construction of a high-level transportation province: it will build a maglev super high-speed rail between Shanghai and Hangzhou. This marks the restart of the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev High-speed Rail Project.

Magnetic levitation has no noise, no wheels, reduces maintenance workload and operating costs, and has a long service life. The maglev train is 35 years and the track is 80 years, which is 20-25 years higher than that of wheel-rail trains and 60 years of track. In addition, China’s self-developed Shijin 600km maglev test vehicle has rolled off the assembly line in May 2020, and the commuting time between Shanghai and Hangzhou can be reduced to less than 20 minutes, which is half the time used by the existing wheel-rail high-speed rail, and has obvious advantages in speed and time.

The maglev high-speed rail is expensive, the personnel and business exchanges between Shanghai and Hangzhou are frequent, the economies of the two places are extremely developed, and the fiscal revenue is high. In 2020, the local fiscal revenue of Shanghai is 704.6 billion yuan, and Hangzhou is 209.3 billion yuan. The Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev planning investment is 100 billion yuan. The per capita disposable income of the two places is also among the top in the country, and there is a demand for maglev high-speed trains.

At present, the speed of China’s high-speed railway is about 300 kilometers per hour. It is no longer suitable for environmental protection and safety to increase the speed. The pursuit of higher speed and comfort is the best choice. In 2008, the Beijing-Tianjin intercity high-speed rail opened the era of China’s high-speed rail, and also opened up China’s major infrastructure construction, making it the “main artery” and powerful engine of China’s economy.

The launch of Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev will not only promote the integration of Shanghai-Hangzhou and accelerate the integration of the Yangtze River Delta, it may also start the wave of China’s maglev infrastructure and usher in a new era like high-speed rail many years ago.

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