Maglev Train Exceeds 500 KPH Using High Temperature Superconductor Wire

December 07, 2005 by Jeff Shepard

American Superconductor Corp. announced that Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) successfully ran its magnetically levitated ("maglev") train system for the first time utilizing high temperature superconductor (HTS) electromagnetic coils powered by American Superconductor's HTS wire.

The maglev train attained speeds as high as 500 kilometers per hour (approximately 311 miles per hour), while levitated about 10 centimeters (4 inches) above its "track." Superconductor electromagnets are used as the lifting component in JR Central's maglev train system. The test runs are an important step in the commercialization process for maglev electric transportation systems.

The maglev train is the vehicle being considered for Japan's Chuo Shinkansen, a main transportation route connecting Tokyo to Osaka. JR Central has been running its maglev trains since 1997 utilizing low temperature superconductor (LTS) electromagnets.

HTS electromagnets offer several advantages over LTS electromagnets including a much less complex cooling system allowing simpler designs, lower costs and more reliability. Additional testing and analysis are required in order for HTS electromagnets to be chosen as the preferred solution for maglev trains. AMSC estimates that the total potential HTS wire requirement for a full, commercial maglev train system for the Tokyo-Osaka run exceeds 100 million meters (62,137 miles).

The procedure for the running test, a benchmark for the project, included the replacement of one of the eight LTS electromagnets on JR Central's maglev train with the prototype HTS electromagnet. Data on the vibration and temperature characteristics of the HTS electromagnet will be collected and analyzed to provide a basis for further improvements.

Development of JR Central's HTS coil technology was achieved through collaboration of JR Central and Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. with the International Superconductivity Technology Center (ISTEC) in Tokyo and was funded in part by Japan's Energy Development Organization (NEDO). Toshiba produced the HTS electromagnets for JR Central.