A team of Chinese scientists say they have created a magnetic levitation (maglev) line that can keep train carriages suspended in mid-air, even when the power goes out.
The 800-metre prototype ‘Red Rail’ line is situated in Xingguo country, north of Guangzhou.
The experimental maglev line possesses its remarkable sticking power thanks to powerful magnets enriched by rare earth elements.
Despite zero contact points between the line and carriages, each train car can host up to 88 occupants and move at speeds upwards of 80 kilometres per hour.
Unlike most examples of maglev trains, the Red Rail is built on a raised platform 10 metres above the ground.
Instead of the standard rail and carriage configuration seen on almost all trains, magnetic or traditional carriages on the Red Rail are suspended below the line.
Magnets attached to the line repel polarised magnets fixed to an arm extending from the carriage, creating a near-frictionless state of suspension between the two surfaces.
Engineers say the low-friction environment means very little energy is required to move the weighty carriages.
Maglev technology has been in the conscience of the public transport industry for several decades already.
Some parts of China and Japan operate ultra-fast maglev lines, such as the Shanghai Transrapid or Japan’s L0, which have top speeds of 430 and 602 kilometres per hour respectively.
While both maglev lines are significantly faster than the Red Line, they require more energy to get them moving that quickly.
High-speed maglev trains also create excess quantities of electromagnetic radiation that can be harmful to some bird, mammal and plant species.
Engineers working close to the project say the Red Line maglev produces negligible amounts of the potentially harmful by-product and could increase its top speed from 80 to 120 kilometres per hour.
Supplementing parts of the line with rare earth elements improves the train’s efficiency and halts magnetic decay within the system, according to the South China Morning Post.
For example, adding Neodymium to a magnetic object can lower the amount of magnetism lost over time to only 5% every century, creating what scientists call a permanent magnet.
China has toyed with permanent magnet maglevs since 2001, according to a report published on the Chinese military website, PLA Online.
In that time, Chinese researchers have made much progress, especially in areas like control, safety and AI integration.
Long Zhiqiang, a professor associated with Changsha’s National Defense University, said the maglev bested traditional subway trains in terms of speed and comfort.
Underground trains have their speeds capped at 80 kilometres per hour and create significant amounts of noise pollution.
Maglevs operated by AI can travel 50% faster and the lack of power static means they are a great deal quieter too, Long explained.