Prototyping a Maglev train using LEGO


Serious research using not-so-serious equipment? We don’t know about that. What’s wrong with using LEGO as a research platform for a Maglev? This team has been doing so for quite some time and with great results.

A Maglev is a vehicle based on the principles of magnetic levitation. Similar poles of magnets repel each other and this concept can be used to create a friction-less track system. But this raises the problems of braking and locomotion. The build log linked above covers the conception in what is the eighth iteration of the research project. But the video below offers the most concise explanation of their approach to these issues.

The researchers are using magnets positioned in trench of the track as a kind of magnetic gear to push against. A series of electromagnets on the Lego vehicle ride in that track. The can be energized, working as a linear motor to push against those permanent magnets. But how do you know which direction of travel this will cause? That problem was solved by adding a hall effect sensor between each electromagnet. Before switching on the coil the hall effect sensors are polled and a timing scheme is selected based on their value. This is used to push the train up to speed, as well as slow it down for braking.

[via Reddit]


  1. Elektronika says:

    Really nice project… would look much better without Legos though.
    And please, use Acetone.

  2. KMPDigital says:

    Nice work. Looks like a fun Sr project. Would like to see a full track and know what the top speed can be.

  3. Couldn’t eddy currents from the magnetic “cog” track be used for braking as well? at least for the initial braking from cruising speed.

  4. Chuck says:

    The basics of accelerating and braking a maglev train are the same as for a rotary polyphase induction motor. Braking occurs by driving the linear induction motor with a negative slip value.

  5. JN says:

    Isn’t the fact that the supporting structure is non magnetic invalidating the whole prototype?

  6. Wolfy says:

    Your project ROCKS! Nice job!

  7. DerAxeman says:

    “What’s wrong with using LEGO as a research platform for a Maglev?”
    Legos aren’t magnetic ;-)

  8. Reblogged this on Perfectly Opaque and commented:
    I got to watch it!

  9. wardy says:

    Does this model levitate passively if the power is turned off? If so how is this achieved. Looks some of this is closed source looking at the website.

    • Greenaum says:

      The same way the guy who did the mag-lev bed on HaD did, a while ago. Magnets repel each other, and the weight of the train keeps the whole thing from being flipped off into the sky.

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