By 2020 Italy’s trains may undergo a revolution thanks to ground-breaking technology developed in Pisa.
Magnetic levitation will introduce wheel-less trains and “floating” carriages to the country’s railways, as well as super high speed journeys exceeding 600 km/h.
Researchers at Pisa’s Scuola Universitaria Superiore Sant’Anna are fine tuning “IronLev” technology through their spin-off Ales Tech and they are hopeful that wheels will soon become a thing of the past. Unlike the expensive system used in Japan, its Italian counterpart does not require electricity, relying instead on the interaction between opposing poles created between magnetic superconductors installed on the trains and coils on the line. It is touted to be more efficient, quicker, quieter, and with less wear and tear.
Known as “passive magnetic levitation”, it is hoped that the Italian system will make use of the train lines already in existence throughout the country. A demo has been trialled in the Pisa laboratory and a real-life scale prototype is likely to be created by the end of the year. If the technology is introduced, it will be rolled out first to trams, regional trains and underground before being extended to long-distance high speed lines and goods trains.
Japan is the main country to invest in magnetic levitation rail technology. Originally introduced in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, most recent MagLev tests reached speeds of 603 km/hour.