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Future of Maglev in the US Military 268

The Hippy of Death writes "An article at The Weekly Standard discusses the current maglev research being funded by the US military. From the article: 'But what if you could drastically reduce the amount of noise a ship makes directly at the source? ...Vibration & Sound Solutions Limited suggested placing mag-lev sensors at the source of the electromagnetic fields, such as motors. The idea was to actually levitate the machinery with an array of electromagnets while using a small amount of power.'"
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Future of Maglev in the US Military

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  • Reduce friction? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AK__64 ( 740022 )
    I'm no mechanical engineer (rather obviously) but wouldn't this be useful in reducing friction and alleviating part of the need for complex bearings and lube mechanisms?
    • Re:Reduce friction? (Score:2, Informative)

      by JanneM ( 7445 )
      Magnetic bearings already exist and are in use. They're not without problems, though (not quite as stable as mechanical ones, and not able to take high radial loads). Also, good mechanical berings are already very efficient; it's not like you have a lot of efficiency gains to make.
      • "Also, good mechanical berings are already very efficient; it's not like you have a lot of efficiency gains to make."

        Wouldn't they be handy for applications where an extremely long service life is necessary, as there's no physical contact?
    • As others have said, magnetic bearings do exist (passive and active)

      In addition, there are liquid and air (gas) bearings.

      They all have their limitations (I'm sure someone will tell us what they are)

      All that aside, that isn't what this technology is really going to be used for.

      This isn't directed at the parent or GP, but everyone: RTFA
  • So (Score:2, Interesting)

    by garrett714 ( 841216 )
    What happens when the power dies and all of those sitting in seats fall on their asses?
    • What happens when the power dies and all of those sitting in seats fall on their asses?

      If your are in a sub 1000 meters under water, and the power fails... I think falling on your ass is the least of your worries.
  • Why would you want to design a near silent ship when future American wars are being fought against terrorists? The moment you launch a missile or fire a cannon at a target, the terrorists will know that death is flying their way. Money should be spent gathering better and accurate intelligence on terrorist hideouts.
    • Simple - we're still fighting the last war, which involved an actual nation.

    • Ever hear of a place called China?

      There's a reason they've been working on extending the range of their nukes, and it's not so they can hit farther into Canada. . . .
      • It's a fact: The Chinese hate Winnipeg.
      • working on extending the range of their nukes

        Are you trying to say they can't already hit the US?
        At the end of WW2 the Germans were developing missiles that could hit the US from GERMANY. China is much closer and rocket technology has greatly improved since.

        German A10 rocket: []
        • Even North Korea can (theoretically) reach the United States... i.e, they can reach Hawaii. Washington D.C. is quite a bit farther away. The A10 you link to was actually the precursor to the modern ICBM. But keep in mind that the A10 itself was never built. Even sixty years later, it takes a lot of money and development time to produce a functional model of something like that, and there are a lot of extra-logistics involved in modern nuclear warfare. At the moment, China can reach almost all of the Un
    • Fortunately, our military priorities are not set by people who think statements like " All future wars will be fought against terrorists" are sensible.
    • No need. There was no need to spend a jillion dollars on star wars either. The military is the last bastion of spending money like it's going of style. The sheeple are easy to scare and become compliant when you present a boogieman for them. Ruskies, chinks, gooks, a-fucking-rabs, they are all out to get us donchaknow. They hate us because we are free and good and nice and rich. Please don't ask about that black budget or the military budget, or all the private contractors that we hire out to kill the basta
      • Have you ever considered that the whole star wars thing may have been a well constructed bluff. You publicly announce that you're going to develop a system to shoot down all incoming projectiles from space at significant cost. Russians attempt to counter, engineering does cost analysis. Informs leadership system will cost $x (anything is possible, it's just a matter of money). Leadership realises they don't have $x. Leadership is drowning in self-doubt. Victory is no longer on the table. Bluffing the
        • Have you ever considered that the whole star wars thing may have been a well constructed bluff.

          It's not. The domination of space has been on the Project for a New American Centuries list of objectives for a long time. They wish to control space for the strategic and ecconomic betterment of the USA. It's on their website and in many of their publications. For a group which wishes to take over the world, they are surprisingly open. Oh, in case you don't know who they are, the PNAC is essentially the upper e

    • The Defense Department spends TONS of money [] on military projects that have little relevance in the war on terror. Military spending is the #1 corporate subsidy that no one calls a subsidy. I'm sure a few Senators' districts get some payola out of it too.
    • Why would you want to design a near silent ship when future American wars are being fought against Americans?
  • by keilinw ( 663210 ) * on Monday February 27, 2006 @02:54AM (#14806713) Homepage Journal
    As an engineer and scientist I oftentimes find myself excited about whatever technologies the military is funding. No, I'm not a proponent of destructive technologies -- even though military advancements oftentimes contribute to destruction (a topic for another conversation). But, what really excites me is the benefit to humanity that stems from such research.

    While applying magnetic levitation technologies to engines is a rather roundabout solution, the research will improve humanities knowledge of such technologies in general, potentially expediting the timeframe in which you and I can reap the benefits. Who knows what the future will be? Perhaps we will see MagLev public transportation soon? Or perhaps air travel will be much quieter (now that would be enjoyable)... nevertheless research into the field is necessary.

    One interesting note is that MagLev technologies are NOT that difficult to implement. It's really just a control system of an electromagnetic field. OK, so it is difficult, but its nothing new. What advancements we really NEED have to do with:

    1.) Efficiency. Superconductivity will reduce the overall power / energy demands of the system.
    2.) Reliability. What happens when the power goes out? Does the train / engine / whatever just fall to the ground? This is a BIG consideration.
    3.) Safety. Does exposure to such large EM fields cause cancer?
    4.) etc.

    Despite all of the these concerns I am REALLY excited that this type of research is getting funding... at the very least it is a very practical application!

    Well, thats enough for now.

    Matthew Wong []
    • Actually, using [] s for train suspension (or any linear or rotary bearing) means that the levitation force is provided by the motion, without any electromagnets or feedback loops. They are more lossy than other systems though. It is fairly easy to shield the passengers from the strong magnetic fields using suitable topologies.
    • Actually, I suspect large scale mag-lev for public or private transportation will never really be that workable.

      But, using mag-lev type technologies for shock absorption is really interesting and novel. It has a lot more potential because it doesn't require some huge infrastructure be built. The systems can be installed one vehicle at a time.

      Now, if the Navy starts trying to use fine-grain control over EM fields to attempt to shield steel hulls from magnetic detection, I'm going to be in awe. That does

  • by shadow_slicer ( 607649 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @02:57AM (#14806720)
    The submitter didn't even get to the second page.
    This technology was originally designed to dampen mechanical vibration in ships like the submitter said, but the Navy wasn't interested (probably because while that would be useful in a cold war, it's not too helpful in the war on terror).

    What they're doing now, is using to cushion seats. The article claims some of the speedier boats they use to put marines ashore can pull 8Gs hopping over waves. So they use this technology along with wave height sensors and a fast processor to reduce it to 2-3Gs. Although this sounds new, it's basically the same technique as those active noise cancellation headphones only for lower frequencies and higher amplitudes.

    Then the company is trying to expand by putting this into other vehicles like humvees and helicopters. (why in a helicopter?)

    • Then the company is trying to expand by putting this into other vehicles like humvees and helicopters. (why in a helicopter?)

      I would guess crash safety: A crashing helicopter tends to put down quite hard on the ground. Also, there are usually [] no provisions for ejection seats in helos.
    • Strap yourself into a metal cage and then drop the metal cage from an altitude of about 50 meters (low enough to negate any significant wind resistance) and see how you feel upon landing. Thats basicly how helicopter pilots feel upon crash landing, helicopters don't exactly come equiped with airbags or crash absorbant materials.
    • It's bouncing around a lot. We don't see this 'in the news' because image stabilization is used with TeeVee cameras and other optics. Image stabilization does not work with gun sights. Sure, the whole weapons platform could be stabilized, but imagine all the hydraulics, gimbal mounts, servo-motors, etc. Lots of weight for a Helicopter.
      • When I was in school, I had an aerodynamics prof that was trying to make a point about the serious mechanical and material issues that helicopters have because of vibration. It's a real problem, and this system would help a lot, even if a crash landing isn't involved (as TFA mentions).

        However, since his exact words were "Helicopters are flying vibrators", the point was largely lost on us at the time, and it took several minutes for the lecture hall to calm down enough for him to continue...
    • Then the company is trying to expand by putting this into other vehicles like humvees and helicopters. (why in a helicopter?)

      Did /you/ RTFA? :) This is the helicopter bit from the article:

      "Instead of having these bench seats, we'd have a light seat but have a battery pack like from a motorcycle, a squib, and an acceleration sensor. What would happen would be as the helicopter were falling out of the sky, and you sensed this high rate of acceleration, the squib would fire and . . . the seat would pre-positi

  • I'm shocked that slashdot is linking to The Weekly Standard, the official journal of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. How are they supposed to give us our secret orders and talking points now that the socialist hordes of Slashdot have discovered them?

    But seriously, ya guys should be reading them whether you agree or disagree with the policies they advocate because they are influencial in Republican politics. Much like I follow the NYT editorial page and the network tv sunday morning yak-yak shows, becaus
    • This is a technical article. What does their choice of bullshiting have to do with it?
    • Who gives a shit about partisan politics? How about actually studying facts, and becoming aware of the world around you, rather than the spin? And since when was slashdot a socialist site?
  • by ZombieEngineer ( 738752 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @02:58AM (#14806723)
    The problem of using Maglev on the motors is that the torque that is generated. It isn't as simple as lifting the weight of several tonnes but also apply the rotational torque as well (normally this is less that the wieght of the motor for conventional drives but high power units with hydrogen gas cooling [best thermal conductivity] could increase this force to multiples of the static wieght).
    • Forgot to add the bit about magnetic bearings... With the super magnets that are currently available it is possible to support the rotor wieght by magnetic repulsion. This has been on solar racers such that there is no physical contact (solid on solid) where a traditional bearing is used. This greatly reduces the friction and presumably some of the noise associated with rotating machinery.
    • The article didn't really go into the use for engines too much... went on and on about seats, bench seats light seats, etc. for dampening G-forces during operational impact, etc.

      But in regard to engine noise being transferred to the vehicle... I can see maglev being used on just the mounts themselves with a reinforced harness of some sort that improves the distribution of torque and up/down external vibration. So a series of mounts placed in a spherical grid or maybe a semi-sphere (think cutting off the top
  • I propose that they build a chair out of Bismuth. Diamagnetism will solve all of our problems.

    (I'm kidding, obviously.)
  • by GomezAdams ( 679726 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @03:12AM (#14806762)
    As a long ago submarine sonarman I think this has some potential but the noise we tracked was caused by cavitation of the screws and at least a minor difference in one screw blade. I don't see how this technology would stop that. Cavitation noise reduction requires extremely expensive processes to make the prop very balanced and smooth. But as with anything else under stress the physical shape would be altered and making tracking and turn counting easier. I served on a sub outfitted as a killer sub. A sub that tracked other submarines and we had all the best technology available in the 50s. to reduce noise and our job was to keep the noise level down at all times. It will be worth watching for the civilian application of this.

    In the ocean there are two types of vessels. Submarines and targets.

    • the noise we tracked was caused by cavitation of the screws and at least a minor difference in one screw blade.

      For the collins class submarine project here in Australia the navy specified a quietness standard for the screws which everybody agreed was unachievable. If they had not built slack into the contract I doubt anybody would have agreed to tender. As it is they are having to go back to the drawing board on the screws because they are too noisy. Guys like you could still pick them up.

      Apart from using

  • Maybe this research in MagLev tech, military as it is, can somehow benefit the MagLev train development in the U. S. Wouldn't it be nice to travel between LA and NY on a train that "floats" at 500 km/hr, as demonstrated in this video ( 6387878713 []) shot by some guy who rode on a Japanese MagLev.

  • "Stealth" is a buzzword these days, but the reality is decoys. Radar and other detection systems work excellently when shooting down flying things.

    A 4 million dollar missile wasting itself on an air-launched, $5000 decoy is a good investment. That is one way the US defeated the Iraqi air defense. Pretty easy, actually, if you think about it.
  • MagLev is interesting technology. It has been proven (at least mostly viable) many times over with things like trains. I think it is actually a pretty good idea for the military to see if it fits in the movement of machines and heavy loads.

    An advantage of the military trying to make something work long-term and heavy-duty-scale is that the developments for the military could probably trickle down to use in civilian life. Many technologies have taken just such a development path. Especially those where bus
  • OK, great you now have seats that mitigate impact and motors that aren't really attached to the hull... a couple of questions:

    1) I've never been in combat, but I'd expect that damage enough to cause power failure is rather common. With everything else, it's 'repair the damage and start her up again'. With motors mounted on 'maglev' shocks, what happens if you don't have the supplemental power to start with?

    2) IMO one of the most impressive things about the modern military is their sensor suites at all lev
  • Let's compare old technology (rubber shock absorbing mounts) with new (active maglev shock suppressors):

    Old - cheap, zero power requirement, silent, no additional support/control systems needed, simple maintenance by minimally skilled techs, pretty effective

    New - expensive, lots of power required, non-silent, lots of additional support/control systems needed, complex maintenance by highly skilled techs, super-duper-extra effective (as soon as they get it to work, which will be Real Soon Now)

    All of this... f
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @01:27PM (#14809649) Homepage
    SKF, a leading bearing manufacturer, makes magnetic bearings for rotating machinery. [] These are commercial products in use now.

    They're useful in situations where lubrication is difficult or the lubricant has to be sealed away from the environment. Clean rooms, vacuum systems, food and drug processing, cyrogenics, and pressurized gases qualify. They're also useful for large diameter bearings.

    These things look and work much like an electric motor. They're not that exotic.

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