1995-08-01

SERAPHIM: A Propulsion Technology for Fast Trains 951924

The Segmented Rail Phased Induction Motor (SERAPHIM) is a compact, pulsed linear induction motor (LIM) offering a unique capability for very high speed train propulsion. It uses technology developed for the Sandia coilgun, an electromagnetic launcher designed to accelerate projectiles to several kilometers per second! Both aluminum cylinders and plates were accelerated to a kilometer per second (Mach 3) by passing through a sequence of coils which were energized at the appropriate time. Although this technology was developed for ultra-high velocity, it can be readily adapted to train propulsion for which, at sea level, the power required to overcome air resistance limits the operational speed to a more modest 300 mph. Here, the geometry is reversed. The coils are on the vehicle and the “projectiles” are fixed along the roadbed.
In the 1970's, the Federal Railroad Administration tested a 200 mph train riding on passive wheels and powered by a conventional LIM. In a LIM, electrical windings generate a backward moving wave of magnetic flux in a conducting reaction rail, producing a forward force. SERAPHIM operates not by embedding flux in a conductor, but by excluding it. In this propulsion scheme, pairs of closely spaced coils on the vehicle straddle a segmented aluminum reaction rail. A high frequency current is switched on as a coil pair crosses an edge and remains off as they overtake the next segment. This induces surface currents which repel the coil. In essence, the pulsed coils push off segment edges because at the high frequency of operation, the flux has insufficient time to penetrate. In contrast to conventional LIMs, the performance actually improves with velocity, even for a minimal motor consisting of a single coil pair reacting with a single plate.
With either distributed onboard power, a passive wheeled train powered by a SERAPHIM is an attractive alternative to one which is levitated using superconducting magnets (MAGLEV) and propelled by switched electrified coils in the roadbed.
This paper will present results of proof-of-principle tests, electromagnetic computer simulations, and systems analysis. It is concluded that this new linear induction motor can be implemented using existing technology and is a promising alternative propulsion method for very high speed rail transportation.

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