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4, NOVEMBER 1990

Teaching Electrodynamic Levitation Theory


Abstract-One result of specialization in final-year electrical engi- is assumed. The analysis is supported by an experiment,
neering degree courses is that it is sometimes necessary to cover par-
and is suitable for a three- or four-hour laboratory assign-
ticular topics in detail only as short laboratory experiments or in tu-
torials. To fully appreciate the theory behind many practical ment.
engineering artifacts, computer-based analysis is required, and in a In the paper, two theories are described to obtain ana-
short exposure, care must be taken to avoid loss of physical apprecia- lytical solutions which are used to predict the perfor-
tion. In this paper a scheme is presented for teaching the principles of mance of a simple Maglev (EDS) arrangement. The first
electrodynamic levitation. The theory, using analytic solutions with
theory, based on Maxwells equations and vector force
suitable approximations, is verified by a laboratory experiment. A
three- or four-hour study period with the material will be sufficient to relationships, is for a simplified model allowing for a fi-
gain a good appreciation of both levitation theory and the problems of nite thickness track conductor. The second theory is for a
its practical implementation. thin plate track and is a straightforward calculation of the
lift and drag forces for a particular EDS geometry, in-
volving solution by one-dimensional integral equations.
The magnetic flux source travels at constant velocity and
M AGNETIC LEVITATION (Maglev) technology and
linear machine theory have now matured with prac-
tical systems applied in several areas of science and en-
is derived from a sinusoidally-distributed current sheet
which in practice may be derived from windings or per-
manent magnets. Edge and end effects are neglected in
gineering [ 11, [2]. Currently, Maglev transportation sys- both cases, which is equivalent to assuming infinite iron
tems are in public service in Europe in Birmingham and above the excitation surface and below the conducting
Berlin, are being tested in Japan, and are under construc- plate.
tion in Las Vegas, NV. Of the two principle levitation The simplified theory is illustrated quantitatively by a
schemes, electromagnetic attraction (EMS) and electro- laboratory experiment in which a tray of permanent mag-
dynamic repulsion (EDS), the latter is inherently more nets is suspended over a rotating conducting plane. Gap
suitable for high speed ground transportation since vehi- magnetic field and drag force are measured as functions
cles may be operated at larger levitation heights with flux of velocity. The theoretical approach allows the following
produced by superconducting magnets. aspects to be investigated: the magnetomotive force and
Maglev and linear electrical machine theory has evolved physical dimensions to produce suitable field magnitudes
over a number of years from simple two-dimensional layer and measurable forces, the effect of harmonics by prac-
analysis of infinite iron topologies, to the present use of tical measurement of field profiles, and the effect of skin
three-dimensional magnetostatic finite element computa- depth and conducting plate dimensions.
tional software, with transient analyses using time-step-
ping techniques [3]. Teaching at University level requires 11. ANALYTICTHEORY
a specialist final-year or postgraduate course. To provide A. General Analysis
students with a full appreciation of appropriate analytical
The physical arrangement under study consists of a
and design methods, in-depth consideration of the various
conducting plate moving parallel to a sinusoidally-distrib-
modeling techniques using state-of-the-art computer
uted current sheet. Rectangular Cartesian coordinates are
packages must be used. This approach is viable only in a
used with the plate traveling in the positive x direction
long specialized course, for which the necessary software
and the y = 0 plane corresponding to the plate bottom
resources are available.
surface (Fig. 1). The problem is considered in two-di-
This paper presents a straightforward analytical ap-
mensions only, so the z component of the magnetic field
proach to EDS theory, with emphasis on the physical
and all derivatives with respect to z are zero.
identification of phenomena. The objective is to give a
Maxwells equations
quick appreciation of Maglev principles to students who
are familiar with low-frequency electromagnetic field the- V . B = O (1)
ory, but have a limited amount of time to spend on the
subject. No prior knowledge of Maglev principles as such and
V x B = p0J (2)
Manuscript received January 17, 1989.
The author is with the School of Electrical Engineering, University of with Ohms law
Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom.
IEEE Log Number 9034919. J = aE (3)

0018-9359/90/1100-0346$01.OO O 1990 IEEE


@ @ @ @@
Currentsheet JZJo cos L equations (9) and (IO) give
+4Ezm Conducting plane
B, is obtained from ( 5 ) as

i x(;
Fig. 1. Coordinate system for general EDS Maglev theory
B, = BX exp ( - a y )

- b sin
+ by)].
Physically, a is a decay length function and b is a phase
-a cos

change function. The field amplitude at the plate surface

and the motional EMF ( B )is the sum of the fields due to the current in the sheet,
and the induced currents in the conducting plate. The x
E = v x B (4) component of this surface field Bl may be used as a ref-
give erence for the calculation of the lift and drag forces since
aB, -
- - -- aBy
ax ay
= poau,B,.. B , = BXd(a2 + b 2 ) . (18)
ax. ay
The force per unit volume is
J X B = -uB X (U X B ) = ( T [ B ~-u (U * B)B].
aBy a2B,, aBy
ax2 + - ay2
= p ( T uO -
ax. (7) (19)
The drag force per unit volume is
A suitable solution to this equation is
fx = av,(B; + BZ)
By = B exp ( - a y ) sin
= au,B: (20)
where X is the current sheet wavelength and a and b are since B, = 0. Hence the total drag force is
constant for constant plate velocity.
Also, it may be shown that

a2 = -
1 + b2
F, =


Bf dV

exp ( - 2 a y ) sin2 (: + b y ) dx dy dz

j: exp ( - 2 a y ) dy per unit area ( 2 1)
where d is the plate thickness.
The skin depth in the plate is Hence
F, = - X [1 - exp ( -2ad)I per unit area. (22)
In terms of Bl , using (1 8), this is
and since
au,B: [ 1 - exp ( - 2 a d ) I .
F, = - (23)
w = UJ, 4aX2(a2+ b 2 )
The lift is evaluated the same way and is
fy = uv,B,By (24)
Introducing a wavelength-skin depth parameter
per unit volume, so
F = - [ l - exp ( - 2 a d ) ] (25)

per unit area. In terms of B,, this is TABLE I


= - WbB:
[ 1 - exp ( - 2 a d ) ] . (26) Wavelength- Skin Decay
4a!(a2 b 2 ) Speed Skin Depth Depth Length Phase Change
U, Parameter k 6 (Y Function b

B. Physical Appreciation of Solution v,+O k<< 1/X 6 >> d2 01+1/X b+O

The analysis is exact for constant velocity conditions U. >>w k >> 1 / X 6 << d2 01 --* k/d2 b + d(1 - 6)
since the parameters k, a, and b depend only on the ve- = l/h6 A6
locity v, and wavelength A. The solutions for B, and By
are consistent with a moving current sheet having sinu-
soidal current density. In the general arrangement with using (8),
undefined boundary conditions, the parameters a, b, B,
and B1 are unknown.
Equations (9), (14), and (15) may be used to explain
lByl -+ Bexp (3) -+ 0
the variation of decay length a! and phase change function since k 00 as 6 -+ 0 at U, 00.
-+ (30) -+

b with velocity. Table I gives the low and high speed con-
ditions for k and 6 and limiting values for a and b in terms Also, from (16) and using the high velocity limits,
of k, X, and 6. The decay length a is the larger of the IB,I -+ BAR exp ( - a y ) = B , exp ( - a y ) . (31)
function k, and the reciprocal of the wavelength ( 1 / A ) .
The phase change function b changes with depth and is a The drag force per unit area is then
nonlinearly increasing function of velocity. B:d
From (18), using the above limiting values of a and b,
F , = --
the field component B, increases with velocity from the
applied field generated by the current sheet at low speeds and the lift force per unit area is
(B). Although the theory predicts an increase without
limit, B1 -+ B J 2 / 6 , physically this cannot happen and
the maximum is 2B, when the field cannot penetrate the (33)
plate at all. The theory in fact makes simplifying assump-
tions about the invariance of the field at the plate surface The maximum drag force, assuming the x component of
( B ) , which in practice are untrue. B, may be calculated the surface field (B,) is constant, may be evaluated by
exactly by considering the sum of the applied and induced substituting for b and U, in terms of X and a, and evalu-
fields. ating the differential of F, with respect to the variable a,
using (23). However, because in practice B , will be con-
C. Lifl and Drag Forces stant only at low velocities, the determined value using
this equation will be inaccurate. Therefore, evaluation of
Limiting cases for low and high speed operation, with FXmxis best undertaken for specific conditions and ge-
both thick and thin plates, compared to the skin depth, ometries. In general, it is found that for thin plates, max-
will be considered. In general, B, and By are functions of imum drag occurs when the skin depth is approximately
bothx andy. At low velocities, U, 0, k 0 , a
-+ -+ 1/X,-+

equal to the thickness, and for thick plates when the skin
and b -+0. Substituting these limits into (8) and (16), and depth is approximately equal to the wavelength. Thus for
setting B, -+B, a practical system with an accelerating vehicle, there will
be two critical velocities, and the shape of the drag curve
will vary according to whether the thickness of the plate
is less or greater than the wavelength.

For thin plates, 2 a d << 1, and the drag force per unit 111. QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS
area, using (23), is In order to gain an engineering appreciation of the
physical dimensions of a practical machine and to derive
values for the constants of integration, a quantitative anal-
ysis must be made. Fig. 2 shows the variables involved
in the analysis. For convenience, the height coordinate
Similarly, from (26) the lift force per unit area is has been altered to obtain a datum corresponding to the
sheet surface rather than the conducting plane as in Fig.
B2av bd 1.
Fy = 2= 0. (29)
2a2 A. Magnetic Field Produced by Current Sheet
At high velocities, a k/d2, b
-+ ( - k / d 2 ) , so the
-+ The system is represented by a current sheet with si-
phase lag increases, and from (18), B, -+ BXk. Hence, nusoidal conductor density with each conductor carrying

B. Eddy Currents in Thin Conducting Plate

The analysis is simplified if the plate is assumed to be
thin, compared with the skin depth. This restricts the ve-
locity to large values since skin depth is inversely pro-

Xl : P I
portional to the square root of velocity from (13). Fig. 3
shows the plate moving at velocity U, at constant distance
yo below the current sheet. Eddy currents now flow in the
plate due to the changing magnetic field H),,. To calculate
the current density Jpz, it is assumed that the plate is suf-
Fig. 2. Magnetic field produced by sinusoidally distributed current sheet. ficiently thin such that Jpz is a function of x only, i.e.,
independent of depth. The current density in the plate will
the same constant dc current. The theory again restricts then be in the form
the magnetic flux variation to two dimensions by extend-
ing the current sheet to infinity in the ,z direction, and Jpz = Jo sin (x+)
considering unit conductor length.
The current sheet has conductor distribution
with the phase shift x a function of velocity U , and the

t = Tcos (:) (34)

current density Jo a function of both U, and magnetic field
amplitude (H,,,).
At the point P ( x l ) in the plate, the contribution to H
where T is the number of conductors per unit length at from the plate eddy currents is
maximum density and 2aX is the pole pitch of the wind-
ing. The current density in the sheet is hence given by J,,d 6x -
dJo sin [(x - x ) / X ] 6x
6Hpy = - (43)

(x) 2a(x1- x )
2a(x1 - x )
J,, = - cos (35) Hence
where I is the current in each conductor. a sin [ ( x - x ) / X ]
Hpy = - h. (44)
To calculate the magnetic field at a distance y from the
sheet, consider the contribution at the point P ( x I) from
the increment of current in the sheet at position x . Hence, This integral is evaluated by substitution and expansion
(Appendix B). The result is
6 H =61 - =J L 6x- 6y
2fr 2ar
TZcos ( x / X ) 6x
2 7 4 y2
The field at P in the x direction is then
+ ( X I - 41. (36)
H,, = 2 cosdJ0 t+).
The flux density at P is given by
TZy cos (./A) 6x
6Hx = 6H COS 0 = (37) B, = PoH = PO(ljy0 + Hpy)
2a[y2+ (XI - x)?]
and the electric field by E = v X B , or
E, + Hpy).
-v,B, = -U,/.LO(H~,,
Using E, = JPza,and using (41), (42), and (45),

This integral is evaluated by substitution and expansion JO sin (T)

x -XI
(Appendix A). The result is

= -u,po[- 5 (-f) 0) exp sin

The field at P in the y direction is obtained from

6Hy = -6H sin 0 = -

TZ(x, - x ) cos ( x / h ) 6x
+ %os
2 .I)+(
2?r[y2 + (XI - x)] This equation is solved for Jo by expanding the sine and
cosine terms and equating coefficients of sin ( x , / h ) and
and is evaluated in the same manner as H,. The result is cos (xl/X) (Appendix C ) . The result is

Hy = 2
-?exp (T) @). sin (41) J -
- dJ(u,2 + w) exp
TZU, (7). (49)

x=o Force.
[per unit)(
Sheet 0 mm0 0 0 0 8

Plate II i-.P d -vx

Fig. 3. Eddy currents in a conducting plate.

Hence from (42), Fig. 4. Lift and drag force characteristic.

Jpz = dJ(vz
+ w) exp (7)
(7) sin x -XI (50) with the result


x = Atan- (5) and w = -

Pond (57)
D. Comments on the Quantitative Analysis
C. Forces on the Moving Plate
The form of the drag and lift force characteristics, de-
The forces between the moving plate and the current rived from (54) and (57) and shown in Fig. 4 , bears some
sheet may be calculated using

F= s J X BdVp
where dVp is a volume element in the plate ( = d 6x per
similarity to the characteristics found from the exact anal-
ysis, (23) and ( 2 6 ) , for the case of thin plates ( d -+ 0 ) or
high speed operation ( U , >> w). For high speeds, (54)
and (57) give
unit length in the z direction). The drag force is then kuT1d w
P ah VX

per pole per unit conductor length. Using (41) and (50), FL + poaT2Z2d. (59)
The plate surface magnetic field phase change is also
quantifiable with an upper limit of a / 2 for very high speed
A. Equipment
This integral is evaluated using ((2.5) after expanding the
first sine term, with the substitution U = x/A. The result Simplifying the geometry to two dimensions enables
is some useful theoretical conclusions to be drawn. How-
ever, the presence of end and edge effects will preclude
F D = - ~OAKTZ
2 (U:
+ w) exp (-2). (54)
the exact quantitative confirmation of theory by experi-
ment. For the design of suitable experimental apparatus,
careful consideration must be given to the relationships
The lift force is between skin depth, current sheet wavelength and ampli-

FL -- F Y = - 1ah

- ah
JpzPoHxd (55)
tude, plate thickness and velocity, and airgap depth.
The test equipment used to illustrate the analysis con-
sists of a circular conducting plate, driven at variable ve-
per pole per unit conductor length. Using (39) and (50), locity, and with a nonmagnetic tray of cylindrical per-
this becomes manent magnets suspended above in an arc (Fig. 5). This
set of permanent magnets produces a flux distribution
similar to that of a sinusoidal current sheet if the magnet
diameter is much greater than the length, For an accurate
* sin (
x (F)
-XI cos a!x
calculation of the surrounding field distribution, an inte-
gration throughout the magnet interiors is required. How-
ever, it can be shown that if the second quadrant demag-
35 1


> Hall probe slots

Airgap ( Z o ) = l O ,
at 2O intervals 12.5 or 15 mm
Fig. 5 . Experimental equipment schematic.

magnets B k$4 H

sheet x xw x x * a x xmxx x 0 -

? fix Y

Fig. 6 . Representation of permanent magnets by sinusoidal current distri-


netization curve of the magnetic material is linear, it is tation ampere-turns is

possible to represent the magnets by circulating currents
with magnitude decreasing towards the center (Fig. 6).
Moreover, if the magnets are uniformly magnetized, they
can be more accurately represented by an equivalent air- Using numerical values for X and y from Fig. 5, and By
gap plus a current sheet around the magnet periphery, = 67 mT (from Fig. 7), the maximum turns density be-
rather than the distribution shown in Fig. 6. The sinu- comes TI = 125 kA m-'. In a practical situation, a dc
soidal distribution is, however, more amenable to theo- current of I = 2A could achkve this with windings at a
retical analysis. In the equipment, the height between the maximum density of 42.5 x lo3 m-', if it formed the
magnet tray and conducting plate is fixed at several val- excitation current of a conventional electromagnet. The
ues. The magnetic flux density in the y direction can be critical factor is ohmic heating, which limits the wire cur-
measured at various points in the airgap by Hall probes, rent densities to approximately 0.015 A mm-2.
and the drag force on the magnet tray can be measured Problems of wire or tape manufacture can be bypassed
for various tray heights and plate velocities. if high temperature superconductors are used to form the
permanent magnets. To do this, the material is wrapped
B. Airgap Flux Density around an iron former, either as a coil or as a cylindrical
Airgap flux density in the y direction was measured at sheet. Persistent currents are then made to flow in the su-
a distance of 3 mm beneath the permanent magnets at perconductor, magnetizing the iron. There is no energy
standstill and for four rotational speeds. The measured loss and the system acts in the same way as a high-energy
flux distribution (Fig. 7) is shown for clarity only for the permanent magnet. The best high temperature supercon-
first third wavelength. At standstill, the equivalent exci- ductor using existing technology produces a field of 3 T,

flux densitv I


-0 081
1 Flg 7 . Expenmental magnetlc flux density distnbutlon.
' 0

Drag Force FD
(per unitl


Z, = 10mm

12 5 mm.
- .
L -
I 15mm speedW(rev/mln)
1000 2000 3000 4000
Fig. 8. Experimental drag force as function of velocity.

from a magnetizing field of 12 T, at 77 K, with an energy Jpz increases) and a phase shift (as x' increases) with in-
product of 1.8 MJ * m-3 [4]. The required current density crease of speed. The amplitude attenuation is most easily
and generated field may thus be increased by a factor of seen at x = 0 and 40 mm and the phase shift by comparing
about 45. the standstill curve with the others at B, = 0. The phase
In a real Maglev system, the effect of increasing the shift appears approximately independent of speed for the
field is to increase the airgap at which levitation occurs. range of speeds shown because of the persistent currents
For example, the Japanese MLU002 EDS system has a in the plate, which decay at the same time rate but have
field magnetomotive force of 700 kA and gap of 110 mm larger space constants with increasing velocity.
to levitate a vehicle of mass 17 t at an operating speed of The results also show the presence of harmonics on the
420 km h-' using a pole pitch of 2.1 m [5]. fundamental sinusoidal flux profile. There is a flatter flux
The remaining curves of airgap flux on Fig. 7 are for distribution at speed because the plate eddy currents tend
yo = 10 mm and demonstrate the change of eddy current to oppose the rate of change of flux at the edges when the
density near the surface with increasing plate motion. As magnets pass by. At the center, the profile dips because
expected, there is both attenuation of field amplitude (as the flat profile does not give rise to rapid flux changes.

C. Drag Force Substituting U = xI - x,

Fig. 8 shows the experimentally measured drag force
as a function of speed for various airgap lengths. The force
axis is expressed in per unit values relative to the maxi- (A1 1
mum measured force. The curves satisfy the theoretical m
relationship cos ( u / h )

from (54), with a maximum at v, = w. For aluminum

sheet and the dimensions of Fig. 5, this critical velocity The first integral is standard [ 6 ] ,and the second is zero.
is Thus, the result is

- 14.1 m s- 700 r/min. H, = -
TI exp
(T) 6). cos (39)

The experimental result shows the drag force to be a max- APPENDIXB: PLATEFIELD DUE TO PLATEEDDY
imum at about 1300 r/min, independent of airgap. Al- CURRENT
though this velocity differs by a factor of two from theory,
it is considered reasonable due to the inaccuracies detailed
previously, such as assuming a thin plate and ignoring
edge and end effects. Since the skin depth is equal to the
plate thickness at a velocity of
Hpy = -
dJo s O1

sin [(x - x)/h]
-x) (XI
dr. (44)

To solve this integral, substitute U = (x - xl)/X, so that

d ~ Jm
, sin [U + (xI - x)/h]
Hpy = - du (Bl)
21i -m U

and this was not reached in the present experiment, the

plate thickness approximation is certainly not completely

V . CONCLUSION + sin tqSIrn

) cos
y d Uu ] . (B2)
Exact and approximate analytical theories for Maglev
The first integral is standard [ 6 ] ,and the second is zero,
EDS have been presented, involving solutions for the lift
and drag forces between a two-dimensional current sheet
and a conducting plate, and neglecting end and edge ef-
fects. The theories provide a basis for a brief exposition (45)
of Maglev to final-year undergraduates.
Experimental apparatus has been described which illus- APPENDIXC: AMPLITUDE
trates the theory. Although conventional ceramic magnets DENSITY
were used in the present experiment, it would be possible
to use the equipment to test the effect of new materials
such as high temperature superconductors. Q sin
- ( )
J, . x - x
- = -vxpo[-:exp (-f) sin 6)
In the approximate theory, some simplifying assump-
tions regarding plate thickness compared with skin depth
are made. However, the analysis is still sufficiently robust
to predict performance variations with changes in param-
+ dJ,
cos .I)*( (48)

Expanding the sine and cosine terms and equating coef-

eters such as plate thickness, airgap, and excitation field ficients of sin (xl/X) and cos (xI/X),
wavelength. For the discerning student, the treatment may
be regarded as open-ended and used as a starting point for
project work. Jo cos )(: = vxpou
exp (-f)

H, = -
--OD [y
Y Os

+ (XI - x)]
&. (38)

Setting their cooperation and advice. He is also grateful for dis-

cussions with Prof. J. F. Eastham of the University of
w=- Bath, UK.
Po do
Equation (C2) gives REFERENCES
[l] P. K. Sinha, Electromagnetic Suspension: Dynamics and Control.
London, UK: Peregrinus. 1987.
(c3) [2] R. G. Rhodes and B. E. Mulhall, Magnetic Levitation for Rail Trans-
port. Oxford, UK, Clarendon, 1981.
whereupon 131 B. V . Jayawant, Electromagnetic Levitation and Suspension Tech-
niques. London, UK: Edward Arnold 1981.
[4] S . L. Wipf and H . L. Laquer, Superconducting permanent magnets,
sin IEEE Trans. Magn., vol. MAG-25, no. 2, pp. 1877-1880, Mar. 1989.
(c4) [5] Y. Kyotani, Recent progress by JNR on Maglev, IEEE Trans.
Magn., vol. MAG-24, no. 2, pp. 804-807, Mar. 1988.
and [6] I. S . Gradshteyn and I. M. Ryzhik, Table of Integrals, Series and
Products. Orlando, FL: Academic, 1980.

cos (C5)

Hence from (Cl),


+ w) = v x p o a-
TI exp
(F) - Jod
WJ(U2 + w)
R. John Hill received the B.Eng. degree in 1969
and the Ph.D. degree in 1973 from the University
of Liverpool, UK.
He then joined the Signal Engineering Depart-
ment of London Underground Railways, where he
was involved in the design and development of
automatic train control systems. In 1981, he be-
came Lecturer in Engineering at Cambridge Uni-
versity and Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge,
UK, and in 1986, he was appointed Lecturer at
the School of Electrical Engineering, University
of Bath, UK. His present research covers rail transportation traction, sig-
ACKNOWLEDGMENT nalling, electrification, control and communication systems. He has pub-
The author would like to acknowledge his former col- lished approximately 45 conference and transactions papers on power elec-
tronics, drives and railway system modeling.
leagues at Cambridge University, UK, notably Dr. P. P. Dr. Hill i s a member of the IEE (Britain) and Institute of Physics (Brit-
Acarnley, Dr. A. Campbell, and Dr. P. G. McLaren, for ain).