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ODU Maglev Vehicle Passes Milestone Track Test

It was a short trip, but a major milestone on a long journey.

The Old Dominion University team behind the magnetic levitation (maglev) research project tested a 12-foot-long train base car on 50 feet of elevated track on the south side of campus on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

The demonstration, for school officials and local media, indicated that some of the problems that have arisen with slower-speed maglev transportation have been solved.

"This is a significant milestone. We have always said that we wanted to show that we could levitate it and propel it, and we have done it," said Jerry Creedon, ODU's director of transportation research.

ODU is working to develop an energy-efficient maglev train that would operate at slower speeds in an urban setting. The only commercial maglev in the world is a high-speed train built in China for several billion dollars.

During Tuesday's test, the 12-foot-long car, called a bogie, moved back and forth at several miles per hour. Its trip length was limited because it required a cable to run to the device controlling its movement.

This track test has been a long time coming. Levitation has been accomplished in the lab for three years now.

Thomas Alberts, an aerospace engineering professor, heads up the research team in magnetic levitation at ODU. He said his team has been testing the separate magnetism system for propulsion, known as a linear induction motor, in the lab for a number of months.

"We put the bogie on the guideway in December and began the first on-guideway testing of that vehicle," Alberts said.

"That was when the first unrestrained propulsion tests occurred. The rainy cold weather in December prompted us to curtail the tests until after the holiday break."

The initial plan called for a wireless demonstration, but the engineers found that a problem with electric "noise" or static needs to be worked out first.

More tests are scheduled for Thursday afternoon, then it's back to the lab for the maglev team.

Alberts said by next week the engineers hope to have the bogie back in the lab to begin making the adjustments needed based upon the results of the tests on the track. "By summer we should have it back on the track for more tests."

Oktay Baysal, dean of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, was one of the school officials who attended the test. He hopes it's a sign of big things to come for the maglev team at ODU.

2010 could be a busy year for maglev testing on the campus.

The MagneMotion maglev vehicle - a $7.9 million magnetic levitation project by a Massachusetts firm - is due to be tested on the ODU track beginning in about a year, Creedon said.

The plan is to use the station near Webb center as the staging/power point for tests that will reserve the eastern half of the track (back toward Hampton Blvd) for MagneMotion testing and the western half for ODU's maglev bogie testing.

This article was posted on: February 18, 2009

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