The Fastest Train in Korea
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- Registration Date : 2019-01-30
Scientific Common Sense
The Fastest Train in Korea
“A train crosses the Galaxy through darkness, then…” Do you remember “The Galaxy Express 999,” a retro train that ran with our childhood innocence? Now, decades of years later, there is a train that runs showing off amazing speed although there is the train that runs crossing the Galaxy. It is ‘HEMU (HEMU-430X),’ the fastest train in Korea. HEMU, meaning “sea fog” and “runs fast,” recorded the highest speed of 430km/h as of 2013. Korea became the fourth country which recorded a train speed of over 400km/h with only its own technologies. “HEMU,” how can it run so fast?
“Sea Fog” HEMU Achieves Ultra High Speed with Pure Korean Technologies
HEMU is a high speed rollingstock that was developed jointly by about 50 institutions under the lead of the Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) (UST School) from 2007 to2012. Existing express trains KTX and KTX-Sancheon are driven with concentrated traction system, where a locomotive tows passenger cars. Unlike this, HEMU has been designed with multiple power type which is suitable for high speeds in excess of 300km/h. In a multiple power train, traction power is dispersed in several cars. Motor or engine which has relatively low power is installed in the lower part of each car of a train. As power and braking power are dispersed here and there of a train unlike concentrated traction type trains where one car should push or pull the entire cars, acceleration and deceleration can be performed more quickly. Of course, it’s not like the train has only merits. Highly advanced technology that miniaturizes the motors used in the bottom of railroad cars is required and a relatively complicated structure must be designed. Maintenance fees are huge. In addition, the severe vibration and noise from the rotation of the engine and motor under the train diminish riding comfort.
However, all the expectations of the public fell on HEMU as it boasted a speed that was faster by 130km than KTX-Sancheon after technical verification and stabilization in 2013. But, HEMU stayed on the railway for the past several years without showing its good performance. So, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs established its “next-generation high-speed train commercialization plan” and said its commercialization will be promoted after verification of its performance by 2020.
Hyper-connected Society, Cutting-edge Train Era Comes
Shanghai Maglev, the fastest train* among commercialized trains in the world, shows off its whopping speed of 431km/h. This train is driven with the principle of a train floating by the momentum gained through the pulling power from different polarities between the bottom part of a train that surrounds the railroad and the railroad located above. As there is no friction with the railroad, vibration and noise are less and acceleration and deceleration are efficiently performed using electromagnets.
Moreover, trains’ appearance is also evolving along with technologies that advance daily. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, planned a supersonic train called “hyperloop” as a future means of transportation. This concept involves a carrier driven through magnetic levitation without air resistance by putting the transportation capsule in a vacuum tube, so the hyperloop can run at up to 1,224km/h, which is theoretically close to the speed of sound. Even, as a linear induction motor used in acceleration is charged through photovoltaic panels installed in the roof of the tube, it boasts an eco-friendly aspect that needs little fuel cost. Elon Musk established the basic concept for this in 2013 and disclosed it for all to use. Since then, efforts to make a hyperloop have continued throughout the world. Not only the US and China, Korean government-funded research institutes and UNIST also are engaged in research on hyperloop-related technologies. In particular, KRRI (UST School) has solidified the foundation for supersonic trains by developing the world’s first “sealed tube under partial vacuum,” which deflates in the tunnel.
Advancing Trains, Coming Eurasia Era
On December 26, 2018, North and South Korea jointly held the groundbreaking ceremony to reconnect and modernize railways and roads at Panmun Station in Gaeseong. However, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) said actual work will begin anytime soon. Because the North and South Korea’s joint investigation team confirmed the North Korean railroad infrastructure such as roadbed and rail is too old that only low-speed driving at about 30km/h was possible. The railroad connection will be made by the two Koreas, with South Korea being responsible for capital and technologies and North Korea for land and facilities. All eyes are now on what the train connecting North and South Korea will be like. Especially, people expect “a train that runs all over the world” that departs from Busan and can reach Europe with this groundbreaking ceremony as the momentum for progress. Someday, can’t we see a train that runs toward other planet across the universe like The Galaxy Express 999?