China builds first ‘permanent magnetic levitation’ test track

The goal is to produce low-speed, low-cost, small-scale maglevs like this Japanese version near the city of Nagoya (Grisin/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Chinese government said it had completed an 800m-long railway track to test “permanent magnetic levitation” (PML) technology.

The “Rainbow” line was built in Xingguo County, Jiangxi Province, to test a low-cost, low-speed version of maglev transport for use in tourist destinations, airports, small towns and neighborhoods business centres.

Unlike conventional maglev tracks, which require electromagnets, PML lines rely on alloys of rare earth metals, usually neodymium or samarium. These produce magnetic fields greater than 1.2 Tesla, compared to 0.5 to 1 Tesla for a conventional iron or ceramic magnet.

This is believed to be enough to power two-car trains with a capacity of 88 passengers at speeds of up to 80 km/h.

The test line was developed by a team consisting of Jiangxi University, China Railway Liuyuan Group (CRL Group), China Railway High-tech Rail Industry and China National Rare Earth Functional Material Innovation Center .

The system uses China’s BeiDou satellite navigation system, 5G, and smart sensing technologies.

Chen Guodong, general manager of CRL Group, said in a press release that Rainbow will be “a cost-effective rail transport mode, which has wide application scenarios.”

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