What Was Discovered in 1911 That Led to Maglev Trains?


Quick Answer

Superconductivity was discovered by Heike Kammerlingh Onnes in 1911. This discovery eventually made maglev trains possible. Superconductivity is the cooling of materials, such as lead and mercury, to extremely low temperatures to eliminate the materials' resistance to electrical conduction. This allows more electrical amperage to move through the conductor.

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Full Answer

The use of superconductors allows maglev trains to appear to float. These trains use two types of superconducting magnets, a guiding magnet on the side of the train tracks and an electromagnetic levitation magnet. The electromagnetic levitation magnet is located under magnetic tracks which eliminates the friction between the train and the tracks. This allows the train to travel at high speeds only millimeters above the tracks. Onnes received the Nobel Prize in physics 1913 for his work with superconductivity.

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