Magnets iron (Merriam-Webster 431). Magnetism is a force

Magnets
are used everywhere for a variety of things, and we use them everyday in our
daily lives, whether it’s for minor things like keeping food fresh, or for
matters that are more important like diagnosing medical conditions. But
something else that people may not realize, is that using magnets in transportation
might be more useful than they think. A recent example of that are Maglev
trains, also known as magnetic levitation trains. Some people are against it as
they think that they are dangerous, however Maglev trains are proving to be quite
beneficial. But what exactly are magnets and what is magnetism?

 

            The definition of magnetism in the
Merriam-Webster dictionary is the power (as of a magnet) to attract iron
(Merriam-Webster 431). Magnetism is a force that causes magnets and magnetic
materials like iron, nickel and cobalt, to either attract or repel each other,
and a magnet has two regions, a north pole, and a south pole (Johannes). When
the north pole of one magnet is facing the north pole of another magnet, the
two magnets repel each other, and when a north pole of one magnet faces the
south pole of another magnet, they will be attracted to each other, because
like poles repel, and unlike poles attract (Johannes). The magnetic field of a
magnet is the area around the magnet where magnetic materials can be attracted,
and it is invisible to the naked eye (Johannes). Although there is one way to
‘see’ it, by drawing out magnetic field lines, which are lines that show where
the magnetic field of a magnet is the strongest (Johannes). The reason why magnets
are attracted the other magnets and why magnetic materials are attracted to
magnets is all because of the atoms in a magnet (Walker 34). Magnetic materials
are attracted to permanent magnets because those atoms are lined up, pointing
in the same direction, and magnets with many atoms with a magnetic forced will
have a stronger magnetic force (Walker 34). Magnets are also closely related to
electricity, and the force of magnetism is even created by electric current
(Johannes). Magnets created by electric currents are called electromagnets
(Johannes). Electromagnets are made up of a current flowing through a coil of
wire, and one end becomes the north pole, while the other end becomes the south
pole (Johannes). When the current is stopped, the electromagnet loses its
magnetism, which makes them extremely useful, as it allows them to be used as
switches and for electric motors (Johannes).

 

            As
aforementioned, magnets can be used for many things, including transportation,
and the idea of using Maglev trains is becoming increasingly popular in first
world countries. Maglev train stands for magnetic levitation train, as it uses
magnets to float above the track, which is called a guideway (Britcher). There
are two types of Maglev trains, electrodynamic, which uses magnetic repulsion,
and electromagnetic, which uses magnetic attraction (Britcher). The
electrodynamic Maglev trains were developed by Japanese researchers, based on
the 1960’s design by nuclear engineer James R. Powell and physicist Gordon T.
Danby in the United States, and the test vehicles went over 370 miles per hour (Britcher).
Superconducting magnets were used, which are electromagnets cooled to less than
450 degrees Fahrenheit (Whyte). Superconducting magnets are much stronger than
normal magnets because when the magnets are cooled, the atoms don’t move around
as much, and they line up easier, increasing the magnetic field of the magnet
(Thompson). Electromagnets are placed on both sides of the trains and those
magnets create currents in the wire coils in the tracks whenever the train
moves (Britcher). The train levitates by about 10 cm because of the magnetic
force between currents and electromagnets (Britcher). In the early 1970’s, a few
German companies began developing electromagnetic Maglev trains, and the tested
trains were going over 310 miles per hour (Britcher). The electromagnetic
Maglev trains used superconducting magnets as well, as the magnetic field of a
superconducting magnetic is 10 times stronger than a normal electromagnet,
which allows the magnet to propel and lift up a train (Whyte). The
superconducting magnets interacted with the metallic loops in the guideway,
which were made out of conductive materials, and they created an electric
current, creating another magnetic field (Whyte). There are three different
types of loops in the guideway (Whyte). The ones keeping the train from
touching the guideway and staying about 5 inches apart, the ones that keep the
train stable and the ones propelling the train (Whyte). The like poles of the
magnets were constantly repelling each other to keep the train floating and
stable, and both attraction and repulsion was used to propel the train (Whyte).
The train was essentially a box with 4 magnets in each corner, the front
corners had magnets with the north poles facing outwards and the back corners
had south poles facing outwards (Whyte). When the loops were electrified, they
created magnetic fields pulling the train forward from the front with
attraction and pushing the train forward from the back with repulsion (Whyte). Due
to the lack of wheels, the train provides a smooth and quiet ride while still
going much faster than a conventional train (Whyte).

 

            Although it doesn’t seem like it,
Maglev trains are not only fast, but also quite safe, according to experts,
because they are controlled by the guideway (Whyte). So even if two trains are
on the same route, the risk of one train catching up to the train in front of
it and the two crashing into each other is minimal, because all the trains are
powered to go at the same speed (Whyte). Not only that, while normal trains can
derail from turning a corner too fast, that wouldn’t happen for Maglev trains,
because they are constantly being held back with super conducting magnets
(Whyte). Maglev trains don’t have any moving parts either, unlike normal
trains, which lowers the cost for maintenance significantly (Whyte). They don’t
touch the guideway either, so there is no friction from wheels when the train
is moving, and even with air friction, the trains are still able to go over 200
mph with ease (Whyte). The lack of wheels also means that passengers will be
spared the deafening noise that comes with them (Whyte).