Helium To Enable Next Generation in Passenger Rail

Revolutionary plans are progressing toward the next generation in passenger rail transport in Japan, a seven-carriage train concept based upon magnetically levitated trains. At the heart of these plans is helium – the trains focus on the use of superconductive magnets for traction, with liquid helium to be used in super-cooling the magnets. Following reports submitted to the Japanese Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism by the Central Japan Railway (JR Central), the route for the Linear Chuo Shinkansen railway has been decided upon. The route will extend from Minato Ward in Tokyo to downtown Nagoya, says The Gas Review, with the location of stations ‘more or less to be decided upon as well’. Approval is due to be obtained this summer, with construction of the line due to start this autumn. The first generation or prototype of the train is understood to have been undergoing repeated trials already. Trials are planned to continued through to 2016. With a 42km stretch of test track in place and set to be worked into part of the regular operational line, scheduled to be inaugurated in 2027, theoretically up to a seventh of the route has already been completed. Of its total 286km of route, the Linear Chuo Shinkansen will run up to 86% of the journey underground or in tunnels. When complete, the Linear Chuo Shinkansen will become the first railroad using magnetically levitated trains employing superconductive magnets in full scale, regular operation. It is hailed as the next generation of railroad transport. Four superconductive coils will be immersed in cryostats of liquid helium, with freezers attached, with the four-unit set comprising one large superconductive magnet. The inside of the cryostat has a nesting structure, with vacuum created by the inner and outer vessels and a radiation heat shield established, throughout which piping is extended. Liquid nitrogen will also be used as part of the concept, flowing through this piping. Any concerns about the usage of liquid helium during tight times of helium supply are countered by the fact that periodic refilling of the Linear Chuo Shinkansen is not necessary; vaporised helium will be re-liquefied and cycled for re-use. As The Gas Review describes, this rail concept could become the next big step in helium consumption after MRI applications.

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