Linear motor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Free-body diagram of a U-channel synchronous linear motor. The view is perpendicular to the channel axis. The two coils at centre are mechanically connected, and are energized in "quadrature" (with a phase difference of 90° (π/2 radians)). If the bottom coil (as shown) leads in phase (reaching its maximum in one direction a quarter of a period before the upper coil reaches it maximum in the other direction), then the motor will move upward (in the drawing), and vice versa. (Not to scale)
Synchronous linear motors are straightened versions of permanent magnet rotor motors

A linear motor is an electric motor that has had its stator and rotor "unrolled" thus instead of producing a torque (rotation) it produces a linear force along its length. However, linear motors are not necessarily straight. Characteristically, a linear motor's active section has ends, whereas more conventional motors are arranged as a continuous loop.

The most common mode of operation is as a Lorentz-type actuator, in which the applied force is linearly proportional to the current and the magnetic field .

Many designs have been put forward for linear motors, falling into two major categories, low-acceleration and high-acceleration linear motors. Low-acceleration linear motors are suitable for maglev trains and other ground-based transportation applications. High-acceleration linear motors are normally rather short, and are designed to accelerate an object to a very high speed, for example see the coilgun.

High-acceleration linear motors are typically used in studies of hypervelocity collisions, as weapons, or as mass drivers for spacecraft propulsion.[citation needed] They are usually of the AC linear induction motor (LIM) design with an active three-phase winding on one side of the air-gap and a passive conductor plate on the other side. However, the direct current homopolar linear motor railgun is another high acceleration linear motor design. The low-acceleration, high speed and high power motors are usually of the linear synchronous motor (LSM) design, with an active winding on one side of the air-gap and an array of alternate-pole magnets on the other side. These magnets can be permanent magnets or electromagnets. The Shanghai Transrapid motor is an LSM.



In this design the rate of movement of the magnetic field is controlled, usually electronically, to track the motion of the rotor. For cost reasons synchronous linear motors rarely use commutators, so the rotor often contains permanent magnets, or soft iron. Examples include coilguns and the motors used on some maglev systems, as well as many other linear motors.


A typical 3 phase linear induction motor. An aluminium plate on top often forms the secondary "rotor".

In this design, the force is produced by a moving linear magnetic field acting on conductors in the field. Any conductor, be it a loop, a coil or simply a piece of plate metal, that is placed in this field will have eddy currents induced in it thus creating an opposing magnetic field, in accordance with Lenz's law.[1] The two opposing fields will repel each other, thus creating motion as the magnetic field sweeps through the metal.


Railgun schematic

In this design a large current is passed through a metal sabot across sliding contacts that are fed from two rails. The magnetic field this generates causes the metal to be projected along the rails.

Piezo electric[edit]

Piezoelectric motor action

Piezoelectric drive is often used to drive small linear motors.


This Line 6 Guangzhou Metro train manufactured by CRRC Sifang and Kawasaki Heavy Industries propels itself using an aluminium induction strip placed between the rails.

Low acceleration[edit]

The history of linear electric motors can be traced back at least as far as the 1840s, to the work of Charles Wheatstone at King's College in London,[2] but Wheatstone's model was too inefficient to be practical. A feasible linear induction motor is described in the U.S. Patent 782,312 (1905 - inventor Alfred Zehden of Frankfurt-am-Main), for driving trains or lifts. The German engineer Hermann Kemper built a working model in 1935.[3] In the late 1940s, Dr. Eric Laithwaite of Manchester University, later Professor of Heavy Electrical Engineering at Imperial College in London developed the first full-size working model. In a single sided version the magnetic repulsion forces the conductor away from the stator, levitating it, and carrying it along in the direction of the moving magnetic field. He called the later versions of it magnetic river.

A linear motor for trains running Toei Oedo line

Because of these properties, linear motors are often used in maglev propulsion, as in the Japanese Linimo magnetic levitation train line near Nagoya. However, linear motors have been used independently of magnetic levitation, as in Bombardier's Advanced Rapid Transit systems worldwide and a number of modern Japanese subways, including Tokyo's Toei Oedo Line.

Similar technology is also used in some roller coasters with modifications but, at present, is still impractical on street running trams, although this, in theory, could be done by burying it in a slotted conduit.

Outside of public transportation, vertical linear motors have been proposed as lifting mechanisms in deep mines, and the use of linear motors is growing in motion control applications. They are also often used on sliding doors, such as those of low floor trams such as the Citadis and the Eurotram. Dual axis linear motors also exist. These specialized devices have been used to provide direct X-Y motion for precision laser cutting of cloth and sheet metal, automated drafting, and cable forming. Most linear motors in use are LIM (linear induction motor), or LSM (linear synchronous motor). Linear DC motors are not used due to higher cost and linear SRM suffers from poor thrust. So for long run in traction LIM is mostly preferred and for short run LSM is mostly preferred.

Close-up of the flat passive conductor surface of a motion control Sawyer motor

High acceleration[edit]

High-acceleration linear motors have been suggested for a number of uses. They have been considered for use as weapons, since current armour-piercing ammunition tends to consist of small rounds with very high kinetic energy, for which just such motors are suitable. Many amusement park launched roller coasters now use linear induction motors to propel the train at a high speed, as an alternative to using a lift hill. The United States Navy is also using linear induction motors in the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System that will replace traditional steam catapults on future aircraft carriers. They have also been suggested for use in spacecraft propulsion. In this context they are usually called mass drivers. The simplest way to use mass drivers for spacecraft propulsion would be to build a large mass driver that can accelerate cargo up to escape velocity, though RLV launch assist like StarTram to low earth orbit has also been investigated.

High-acceleration linear motors are difficult to design for a number of reasons. They require large amounts of energy in very short periods of time. One rocket launcher design[4] calls for 300 GJ for each launch in the space of less than a second. Normal electrical generators are not designed for this kind of load, but short-term electrical energy storage methods can be used. Capacitors are bulky and expensive but can supply large amounts of energy quickly. Homopolar generators can be used to convert the kinetic energy of a flywheel into electric energy very rapidly. High-acceleration linear motors also require very strong magnetic fields; in fact, the magnetic fields are often too strong to permit the use of superconductors. However, with careful design, this need not be a major problem.[5]

Two different basic designs have been invented for high-acceleration linear motors: railguns and coilguns.


Linear motors are widely used. One of the major uses of linear motors is for propelling the shuttle in looms.

Linear motors have been used for sliding doors and various similar actuators. Also, they have been used for baggage handing and can even drive large-scale bulk materials transport solutions.

Linear motors are sometimes used to create rotary motion, for example, they have been used at observatories to deal with the large radius of curvature.

A linear motor system is often used on launched rollercoasters such as ICON at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, instead of the conventional ‘catch-car & pulley’ method seen on the likes of Stealth at Thorpe Park in England.

A linear motor has been used for accelerating cars for crash tests.[6]

Train propulsion[edit]

Conventional rails[edit]

All of the following applications are in rapid transit and have the active part of the motor in the cars.[7][8]

Bombardier Innovia Metro[edit]

Originally developed in the late 1970s by UTDC in Canada as the Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ITCS). A test track was constructed in Millhaven, Ontario, for extensive testing of prototype cars, after which three lines were constructed:

ITCS was sold to Bombardier Transportation in 1991 and later known as Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) before adopting its current branding in 2011. Since then, several more installations have been made:

All Innovia Metro systems use third rail electrification.

Several subways in Japan and China[edit]

These subway lines use technology developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and unless otherwise noted use overhead lines for power collection.


  • There is at least one known monorail system which is not magnetically levitated, but nonetheless uses linear motors. This is the Moscow Monorail. Originally, traditional motors and wheels were to be used. However, it was discovered during test runs that the proposed motors and wheels would fail to provide adequate traction under some conditions, for example, when ice appeared on the rail. Hence, wheels are still used, but the trains use linear motors to accelerate and slow down. This is possibly the only use of such a combination, due to the lack of such requirements for other train systems.
  • The TELMAGV is a prototype of a monorail system that is also not magnetically levitated but uses linear motors.

Magnetic levitation[edit]

The Birmingham International Maglev shuttle

Amusement rides[edit]

There are many roller coasters throughout the world that use LIMs to accelerate the ride vehicles. The first being Flight of Fear at Kings Island and Kings Dominion. Both opened in 1996.


Aircraft launching[edit]

Proposed and research[edit]

  • Launch loop – A proposed system for launching vehicles into space using a linear motor powered loop
  • StarTram – Concept for a linear motor on extreme scale
  • Tether cable catapult system
  • Aérotrain S44 – A suburban commuter hovertrain prototype
  • Research Test Vehicle 31 – A hovercraft-type vehicle guided by a track
  • Hyperloop – a conceptual high-speed transportation system put forward by entrepreneur Elon Musk
  • Elevator "ThyssenKrupp Elevator: ThyssenKrupp develops the world's first rope-free elevator system to enable the building industry face the challenges of global urbanization:". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  • Lift "Technology: Linear Synchronous Motor Elevators Become a Reality". Retrieved 2015-06-02.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ghaseminejad Liasi, Sahand (15 May 2015). "What are linear motors?": 1-50. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.16250.18887. Retrieved 24 December 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "Charles Wheatstone - College History - King's College London". Archived from the original on 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-08-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Magnetic Materials - Electromagnetic Guns". Retrieved 2014-11-22.
  5. ^ Yen, F.; Li, J.; Zheng, S. J.; Liu, L.; Ma, G. T.; Wang, J. S.; Wang, S. Y. (2010). "A single-sided linear synchronous motor with a high temperature superconducting coil as the excitation system". Superconductor Science and Technology. 23: 105015. arXiv:1010.4775. Bibcode:2010SuScT..23j5015Y. doi:10.1088/0953-2048/23/10/105015.
  6. ^ Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. p. 64. ISSN 0161-7370.
  7. ^ "Adoption of Linear Motor Propulsion System for Subway". Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  8. ^ [1] Archived July 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "The Scarborough Rapid Transit Line – Transit Toronto – Content". Transit Toronto. November 10, 2006. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  10. ^ "> Asia > China > Guangzhou Metro". UrbanRail.Net. Archived from the original on 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  11. ^ "The International Maglevboard". Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  12. ^

External links[edit]