How Maglev Trains Work

Shanghai Maglev is currently the fastest commercial train in the world. It has an operational speed of 270 miles per hour and completes the 18-mile journey from Shanghai to the Pudong International Airport in just 7 minutes and 30 seconds. But it is nowhere near the fastest tested train in the world. That honor belongs to a Japanese Maglev train that can reach 374 miles per hour. What makes these trains faster than their traditional counterparts? It’s the power of magnets.

By utilizing magnets and special rail systems, Maglev trains can take friction out of the equation and test the speed limits of railway travel. There are currently two popular Maglev technologies. In EMS or electromagnetic suspension trains, the cars are equipped with electromagnets that push the car away from the ferromagnetic track.

EDS or electrodynamic suspension trains are much more complicated. Superconductive magnets are attached to the train and are constantly cooled with the help of liquid helium so they maintain their power. The guideway consists of two sets of magnets. One layer to suspend the second to guide. Both technologies are capable of producing trains much faster than conventional ones and likely will be used more in the future.

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