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Maglev Technology

Short for magnetic levitation, maglev involves the use of superconducting magnets to cause an object to float. Train systems using maglev technology are a recent development, and they already have the potential to compete with existing forms of transportation in the 21st century.

To get a basic understanding of the principles involved in maglev, try How Things Work (1) at the University of Virginia. This is essentially a frequently asked questions list about the physics of magnetism and maglev trains. The Maglev 2000 of Florida Corporation (2) describes the importance of developing the technology and its possible applications. In the US, there are a number of maglev train systems in the works. The Baltimore-Washington Maglev Project (3) has an interactive map that shows the currently planned route and a possible expansion that could someday connect Charlotte, NC to Boston, MA. There is also a project that will serve Los Angeles and the surrounding area (4). The site has maglev pictures and video, as well as news and developments that are continually updated. To spark children's interest in the subject, there are detailed instructions to Make a MagLev Train (5) with only poster board, magnets, and masking tape. Governmental research is being conducted at Sandia National Laboratories (6). The lab's Segmented Rail Phased Induction Motor (SERAPHIM) will be used in a "maglev system for the Denver metropolitan area." A German company, Transrapid International (7), is a pioneer in maglev technology. Their Web site tells the history of maglev, from the patent of magnetic levitation for trains in 1934 until the present. There is also a countdown until the first Transrapid voyage in Shanghai, China. Lastly, the Personal Electric Rapid Transit System (PERTS) (8) offers a very unconventional view of maglev. Hosted at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the PERTS vision applies maglev technology to achieve a "door-to-door transportation system that... allows unlimited mobility in personal travel."
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