General Atomics and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Win R&D 100 Award for Innovative Maglev Work


Sep 22, 2004

San Diego, September 22, 2004 - General Atomics and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have been recognized for their innovative, research and development on the "Inductrack Magnetic Levitation System." Each year R&D Magazine recognizes the top 100 most technologically significant new products. The award ceremony will be held October 14 in Chicago.

This technology, designated "Inductrack Magnetic Levitation System," was originally invented at LLNL and is being further developed as part of the General Atomics Urban Maglev program. Currently, a full-scale, 120 meter (400-foot) long test track is nearing completion at General Atomics in San Diego, with a full-sized vehicle chassis and all associated power and control systems. Maglev is an innovative approach for transportation in which vehicles are levitated and propelled by magnetic forces.

Inductrack employs un-powered arrays of permanent magnets beneath the vehicle. When the train is in motion, the magnetic field from these permanent magnets generates levitation by interacting with a "track" made up of conductors assembled in an array that resembles a ladder with close-packed rungs.

Urban Maglev is being developed as part of the Urban Magnetic Levitation Transit Technology Development Program that is funded by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The overall objective of the FTA's Low Speed Maglev Program is to develop magnetic levitation technology that is a cost-effective, reliable and environmentally sound transit option for urban mass transportation in the United States. A total of $35 million of federal funding has been appropriated for this program under the TEA-21 transportation funding bill approved in 1998. The FTA oversees this federal funding and awarded approximately $18 million of the total funding to the General Atomics team, the largest single award of Urban Maglev funding under TEA-21.

The next major steps envisioned in the development of the maglev technology will be full-scale testing, system demonstration, and deployment. The full-scale testing of the new maglev chassis will be performed on a specially built test track located at General Atomics in San Diego. The tests performed will validate successful integration of magnetic levitation, propulsion and guidance.

Led by General Atomics, the Maglev project is being developed by an industrial consortium consisting primarily of companies based in the Pittsburgh area. This consortium includes Carnegie Mellon University, Hall Industries, Mackin Engineering Company, PJ Dick, Sargent Electric Company, Union Switch & Signal and the Western Pennsylvania Maglev Development Corporation.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is a public partner on the Urban Maglev project. Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) also support the team. For this cost-share program, the development team in conjunction with PennDOT provides 20 percent non-federal matching funds.

General Atomics Senior Vice President David I. Roberts praised the project's public sponsors, "Without the vision of the FTA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, PennDOT and the Port Authority, we would not have the tremendous progress we see today. We are now on the brink of the next phase of Urban Maglev development, which will allow our team to test and simulate operations of this innovative Maglev system under real-world conditions."

Sam Gurol, General Atomics program manager, said, "Our studies show that this Maglev innovation offers many attractive benefits including the ability to operate in challenging terrain with steep grades and tight turns, all-weather operation, low maintenance, rapid acceleration, and more. However, one of the most significant attributes is its quiet operation, which enables completely elevated guideways, eliminating the need to tunnel underground for noise abatement. For many urban alignments, this can result in very significant cost savings over conventional transportation systems."

For system demonstration, pending Federal funding and support, the team has selected California University located in California, Pennsylvania to be the demonstration site. Angelo Armenti, president of California University, said, "California University is very pleased to serve as host to demonstrate this exciting new technology. The Urban Maglev system will provide a unique link between our main campus and our sports complex, solving a difficult transportation problem and serving a much needed transportation purpose for our campus."

About General Atomics

General Atomics, founded in 1955, specializes in diversified research, development, and manufacturing in defense, energy, and other advanced technologies. Affiliated manufacturing and commercial service companies include General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., which builds the family of Predator®, Predator® B, GNAT, Prowler, and Altus® UAVs.

For more information contact:

Dr. Sam Gurol
Program Manager
General Atomics
3550 General Atomics Court
San Diego, CA 92121-1122

Doug Fouquet
Public Relations
General Atomics
3550 General Atomics Court
San Diego, CA 92121-1122


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