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Levitating locomotive developed by Japanese scientists

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It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel – trains that fly through the air.

But levitating locomotives are very much a reality thanks to Japanese researchers who have developed a train with wings and propellers that can fly along a track.

A research team, lead by Tohoku University’s Yusuke Sugahara, has made a prototype of the train-plane which floats just above the ground on a cushion of air.

A research team, lead by Tohoku University’s Yusuke Sugahara, has made a prototype of the train-plane which floats just above the ground on a cushion of air.

Prototype of a new type of train-plane which uses wings and propellers to float just above the ground

Prototype of a new type of train-plane which uses wings and propellers to float just above the ground

The levitating train on a test track. The problem with this vehicle is that because it has wings it has to deal with pitch, roll and yaw - like all planes - making it very difficult for the bottom of the vehicle to stay parallel with the ground

The levitating train on a test track. The problem with this vehicle is that because it has wings it has to deal with pitch, roll and yaw – like all planes – making it very difficult for the bottom of the vehicle to stay parallel with the ground

Since the train does not come into contact with the ground, there is no friction reducing its forward momentum, allowing the vehicle to potentially reach greater speeds than regular trains with less energy expenditure.

The problem with this revolutionary type of train is that because it has wings it has to deal with pitch, roll and yaw – like all planes – making it very difficult for the bottom of the vehicle to stay parallel with the ground.

Although the prototype – which looks like a Landspeeder, the fictional anti-gravity craft Luke Skywalker uses in the Star Wars films – has a built-in system that counter-acts unwanted movements of the wings and tries to stabilise the three axes of the vehicle it is still not polished enough to give a smooth ride.

This vehicle isn’t the first train to use the concept of floating above the track.

Maglev trains use powerful electromagnets so that the bottom of the vehicle repels that track, allowing it to travel just above the ground.

The prototype looks like a Landspeeder, the fictional anti-gravity craft Luke Skywalker uses in the Star Wars films

The prototype looks like a Landspeeder, the fictional anti-gravity craft Luke Skywalker uses in the Star Wars films

A maglev train - another type of floating train which uses powerful electromagnets to float above the track - passes through Shanghai

A maglev train – another type of floating train which uses powerful electromagnets to float above the track – passes through Shanghai

The problem with maglev trains is that they have to overcome a significant amount of wind drag between the train and the track; most of the power used is needed to overcome this antagonistic force.

The train-plane actually takes advantage of this air shooting beneath it and uses it to help forward momentum.

The highest recorded speed of a maglev train is 361 mph, achieved in Japan in 2003.

Although very popular in Asia, the first commercial maglev people transporter was actually opened in Birmingham, in 1984.

Via DailyMail

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Written by Nokgiir

May 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm

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