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Old Dominion University and its research team in magnetic levitation (Maglev) engineering will work on a $7.9 million project with MagneMotion, Inc. (MMI), a Massachusetts firm, to explore Maglev-based transportation systems for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

The project is part of the FTA Urban Maglev Program, which is designed to create transportation systems similar to existing monorails, but with vehicles that are levitated and propelled by electromagnetism.

MMI was one of five competitively selected projects originally funded by the FTA to perform studies and develop technical approaches to urban Maglev transportation systems. After it completed a successful proof-of-concept phase, the company was asked to submit a development proposal, which has now been funded. The new project will be led by MMI and will utilize the company's expertise and patented technology, as well as the expertise of ODU engineers and the Maglev infrastructure on the Norfolk campus.

"This effort gives us at ODU a wonderful opportunity to enhance our efforts to develop affordable Maglev systems by combining our assets with those of MagneMotion," said Jeremiah F. Creedon, director of transportation research for ODU. "We are very excited that the FTA has chosen to fund this effort."

Added ODU's vice president for research, Mohammad Karim, "We will have the only university-run test bed in the United States for trying out Maglev technologies."

About $6.3 million in funding was awarded by the FTA for the first two phases of the project, more than $700,000 of which will go to ODU. Cost sharing under the agreement, largely in the form of the existing infrastructure contributions, will bring the project total to $7.9 million.

By the end of the 18-month first phase, the system will have been designed and analyzed, and a prototype constructed and validated at a 170-foot test site on or near MMI's facilities in Acton, Mass.

Assuming success at the end of the first stage, the second stage will include installation and test of a 500-foot prototype system using a portion of an elevated guideway that was installed on the ODU campus in 2002 as part of an unrelated Maglev development effort led by American Maglev Technology. Long range plans call for an operational system at ODU.

MMI, which was co-founded by Richard D. Thornton, emeritus professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was granted a U.S. patent for its Maglev system in 2006. The patent recognizes the company's use of a single, permanent magnetic structure to provide suspension, guidance and propulsion of vehicles on a guide way, eliminating a level of complexity and costs found in other Maglev systems.

About the same time in 2006, ODU engineers, led by Thomas Alberts, professor of Aerospace Engineering, demonstrated a new electronic control system they devised that can reliably suspend their prototype a centimeter or two above the steel guide way to allow a floating-on-air ride.

In announcing the latest award, Todd Webber, the MMI president and COO, said, "We are delighted to work with the FTA and ODU to advance our MagneMotion Maglev (M3™) technology. We made significant breakthroughs with our previous FTA award, and look forward to extending our development efforts to demonstrate multiple test vehicles traveling at operational speeds at both our Massachusetts facility and on the ODU campus."

MMI envisions Maglev vehicles that are the size of a van or small bus, and can accelerate quickly to a target speed of about 100 miles per hour. (The guideway at ODU is designed for a top speed of 40 mph.) By having numerous vehicles in operation simultaneously, the system could accommodate a large ridership in specific applications.

For further information please contact
Scott Lowe
Media Relations
Old Dominion University

This article was posted on: January 15, 2008

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