China's Maglev Train Prototype Could Reach Speeds of 1,800 MPH

A research team in China just successfully tested a blisteringly fast transportation concept: super-maglev, a high speed train that could theoretically hit speeds of up to 1,800 miles per hour. That's three times the speed of a passenger jet.

The concept, put forth by the Applied Superconductivity Laboratory of Southwest Jiaotong University, uses the same technique proposed for Elon Musk's Hyperloop: run the train inside a vacuum tube, removing air resistance and enabling super high speeds uninhibited by wind resistance. Research shows that, for vehicles traveling faster than 250 MPH, up to 83 percent of the energy used goes toward fighting aerodynamic resistance.

But with a (highly theoretical) top speed of 1,800 MPH, super-maglev would blow the doors off of Musk's 300 MPH trains. That's because the train inside the Evacuated Tube Transport loop only encounters one tenth of the air resistance of the outside environment.

Dr. Deng Zigang, who led the project, envisions applications beyond land-based transportation. He proposes similar vacuum tube technology could be used to launch vehicles into outer space, or enable super high speeds for military weapons.

Of course, this is all pie-in-the-sky imagination talk right now—Dr. Zigang's test vehicle, running inside a 20-foot diameter vacuum loop, tops out at a very pedestrian 30 MPH. But as research continues at the university's high-temperature superconducting maglev ring, Dr. Zigang and his team hope to push that top speed way, way higher.

It sounds like, theoretically at least, the race is on. [The Daily Mail via PhysOrg]

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