Century-old technology launches us into the future

Century-old technology launches us into the future
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Slowly but surely, the wheel is being reinvented.

By now, we are familiar with maglev trains. With the Japanese bringing the concept into the public eye, and recently with China investing large sums of yuan into the their Shanghai Maglev Train, magnetic levitation technology is becoming more commonplace in the transportation technology conversation. By reducing friction and increasing lift and thrust, these trains are capable of speeds up to 500 km/hr (during a non-commercial trial run by the Chinese) and getting faster.

Some companies, like ET3, are thinking outside the box (or inside the tube, as it were) about ways to use magnetic levitation to increase safety and reduce travel times. ET3 believes, by travelling through airless tubes, train-like capsules can reach speeds up to 6,500 k/hr, with only 1 G of force. Passengers would be able to leave New York City and arrive in Hong Kong for a meeting in just 2 hours.

In addition to travel around the earth, magnets may also be the key to travel into space. In an attempt to reduce the costs of launching a spaceship into orbit, The Startram Project is attempting to utilize a 12-mile vacuum tube and frictionless maglev propulsion to enter orbit. The tube would go 12 miles into the air while the ship would reach 9 km/sec inside the tube. This maglev launch system relies on existing technology. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time, and money, of course.

While waiting for both of these projects to get the funding and global support needed to successfully change travel forever, we can see magnetic technology influence our daily lives. Cadillac, for instance, is utilizing the same magnetic force which elevates maglev trains in the Cadillac XTS’s Magnetic Ride Control, a suspension system that reads the road 1,000 times per second to provide a smooth ride.

In 1912, the first patent for “levitating transmitting apparatus,” allowing for an electromagnetic suspension system, was awarded. One hundred years later, the same technology is making once-impossible travel probable. All without wheels.

This article is written on behalf of Cadillac and not by the Quartz editorial staff.