Scientists in Japan are developing low-friction trains that could save energy as well as reduce
pollution. They are using the 'wing-in-ground' (WIG) effect, in which a high-pressure cushion
of air forms underneath flying objects as they approach the ground, which they believe will
be able to create trains that use only a quarter of power required for magnetically levitated (maglev) trains. The scientists have created a research model called the Aerotrain, which has been tested at the Tohoku University Institute of Fluid Science in Sedai. The model does not have a motor and has to be pushed along a semi-enclosed track by a truck. During tests, the Aerotrain lifted off using the WIG effect after reaching a speed of 50 kilometres per hour.
Yasuaki Kohama, who heads the research project, says that the next step will be to reduce the speed at which the Aerotrain lifts off so that the amount of time in contact with the track is kept to a minimum. This will cut friction and also overall energy consumption. Kohama says that their aim is to reduce pollution emissions to 3.6 grammes of carbon dioxide per person per kilometre, compared with 12.2 grammes for maglev trains.
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