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Magplane Technology designs and fabricates pipeline transport systems using the linear synchronous motor technology developed for the Magplane system. Typical applications for pipeline transport range from priority mail packages to ore transport. A typical ore application would have an underground pair of 60 cm diameter pipes for outbound and returning capsules, and typically carry 10 millions tons per year over a distance of 50 km.


Electromagnetic drives for pipeline systems are intended to replace pneumatic capsules. Pneumatic capsule pipelines have a long history, and there are several large scale systems in current use. Conventional pneumatic systems use external blowers to move the column of air together with the capsules in the pipe. Full-diameter valves are used to control the injection, removal and subsequent return of capsules. Various practical limits constrain the throughput of these systems and limit their cost effectiveness.


The use of electromagnetic drives can greatly improve on the constraints which limit throughput in pneumatic systems, and can result in cost effective systems able to compete with truck and rail transport. Underground pipe transport can also relieve the environmental impact of conventional transport, and result in faster delivery in overcrowded metropolitan regions.


Magplane’s development of capsule pipeline systems was initiated by the desire of the Florida Phosphate Industry to find a cost effective way to reduce the environmental impact of conventional transportation of their very large quantities of material. That industry projects, for example, as many as 30 million tons per year of finished product flowing to the Port of Tampa from the mining areas some 50 km out from the port. Trucks carry the bulk of current production, and place a burden on the already stretched feeder and highway infrastructure in the region. A 50 km pipeline from the mining region to the port would be a potential solution, but would need to be sufficiently cost effective relative to more conventional transportation to result in a satisfactory return on capital. Economic studies have been promising and have resulted in a willingness of the phosphate industry to undertake a significant R&D program.


Since beginning the phosphate application work, Magplane has also received serious expressions of interest from a large mining company for the transport of ore from deep mines to their surface mills, and from a large cement company seeking a viable alternative for their more difficult long-length conveyor belt applications.


IMC-AGRICO Prototype

A demonstration project which uses a linear synchronous motor to move vehicles has been constructed at the IMC-Agrico Company in Lakeland, FL. The demonstration utilizes 200 m of 60 cm diameter cylindrical cast “waste water” fiberglass tube, and includes a 60 m long accelerator/decelerator section, a switch, and load and unload stations. The test vehicle traverses back and forth at a peak speed of 65 km/hr. The 1.8 m long wheelbase vehicle uses six-wheel assemblies at each end of a rotating hopper, and has a payload capacity of 270 kg. The vehicle carries an array of neodymium-iron boron permanent magnets which interact with the linear motor mounted on the outside of the tube to provide propulsion, and with external coils to provide an electromagnetic switch function.


1 km Zhangjiakou Demonstration Line

The new 3rd-generation 1km-long MagTrack Transportation System demonstrated in Zhangjiakou is shown in Figure 4. This 1km-long MagTrack demoline consists of an 500m outbound leg and a 500m return leg with two 180 degree U-turns at two ends to reverse the travel direction, and one load station and one unload station are set at the same end in order to return the unloaded materials back into the load station conveniently. Therefore, the 1 km long pipeline is divided into following four quadrants, load station (Quadrant A), outbound pipeline (Quadrant B), return pipeline (Quadrant C), and unload station (Quadrant D). As shown in Figure 5, four switches can let the capsule set run through load/unload station or bypass pipeline. Both load and unload stations can accommodate a six-capsule set, loading or unloading six capsules simultaneously.


Fig. 4. A new 3rd-generation 1km-long MagTrack demoline in Zhangjiakou, China.

Fig. 4. A new 3rd-generation 1km-long MagTrack demoline in Zhangjiakou, China.


The demonstration line is built as a combination of straight lengths and horizontal and vertical curves with an artificial hill to demonstrate full grade-climbing capability. The capsule design speed is 10 m/s, but the capsule sets will be driven at a much lower speed around 4 m/s in the U-turns with the bend radius of 7 meters, and the load/unload regions. The curves in the 10 m/s portion of the line have a minimal bend radius of 70 meters. At the beginning, the fully loaded capsule set will exit the load station, pass the switch to be accelerated to the operation speed of 10 m/s by the initial acceleration motor sections, go down to the flat ground, 10 degree upslope, hill top, 10 degree down slope, and then go back to the return line through a U-turn. The capsule sets will also travel through a 10 degree slope hill and decelerate to be stopped over the unload station. After the unloading, the capsule set exits the unload station, pass the switch and the U-turn, then return back to either load station through another switch or bypass a straight line to make another cycle running.


Fig. 5. Unload and load stations and bypass pipelines connected with four switches.

Fig. 5. Unload and load stations and bypass pipelines connected with four switches.



The Zhangjiakou Demonstration Line has the objectives of demonstrating all systems operations necessary for a commercial system, including the initial startup, a restart after an unplanned shutdown following a power failure and management of all fault conditions identified in commercial operation by simulated faults on the demonstration. It also contributes to a determination of demo system operating cost projected to a commercial system, including power consumption, scheduled maintenance, and necessary operating personnel. The projected operating cost needs to have a satisfactory return on investment and successful market penetration against both truck and rail transport.