Old Dominion U., Mass. Co. to test Maglev

Posted on January 11, 2010

Old Dominion University and its research team in magnetic levitation (Maglev) has been working with a Massachusetts company that specializes in Maglev technology and is preparing to do prototype testing on an innovative Maglev system on the elevated guideway located on campus.

MagneMotion Inc. (MMI), a company founded by Richard D. Thornton, emeritus professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, received a $7.9-million grant in 2008 from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to conduct a three-phase test of its patented Maglev technology. ODU researchers have been an integral part of the MMI team on this effort.

To prepare for the testing, contractors are removing from the guideway the original AMT vehicle, which has been idle since ODU engineers built a different vehicle based on their research, as well as taking down an incomplete stairway near Webb University Center over the holiday break.

The 18-month, first phase of the testing is almost complete, involving research largely done at MMI's facilities in Acton, Mass. It involved the testing of a prototype on a 160-foot test track at the company headquarters.

Once the FTA signs off on phase one, MMI will bring a Maglev test vehicle to Norfolk to conduct tests along 500 feet of specially retrofitted track on the ODU guideway. That FTA approval is expected early in 2010.

Approximately $700,000 of the $7.9 million MMI grant, earned in a competitive bid contest through the FTA, is pledged to researchers at ODU.

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.

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