photo credit: Southwest Jiaotong University. The super maglev in the test tunnel.
Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains have attracted a lot of interest over the years because of their high speed capabilities. Maglev got off to a slow start; the first passenger Maglev, opened in 1984, was a shuttle in Birmingham International Airport which only traveled at speeds of up to 26 mph (42 kph). Since then the technology has come on leaps and bounds and the fastest passenger train in the world is currently the Shanghai Maglev Train which can reach speeds of up to 268 mph (431 kph).
Now, a team of researchers at Southwest Jiaotong University have built a prototype testing platform to trial a new model called “super-maglev” which could, in theory, reach speeds of up to 1,800 mph (2,900 kph).
The high speeds of this train are achieved by using a vacuum tube to reduce the air resistance that restricts the speed of other maglev trains. The team reduced the air pressure in the testing tube to 10 times less than the atmospheric pressure at sea level which reduced drag substantially and therefore allowed higher speeds.
The speeds attainable by super-maglev are currently limited by the small size of the test platform; however, if longer tunnels are generated they think that it could achieve speeds around three times that of a commercial aircraft. Speeds such as this would allow you to travel from Paris to Moscow in around an hour if a straight tunnel existed, which is pretty impressive to say the least.