Magnetic levitation isn’t just for far-out technologies; it’s already being used in down-to-earth applications. Industrial equipment such as pumps, generators, motors, and compressors use levitation to support moving machinery without physical contact. The same bearings used to support maglev trains are used in electric power generation, petroleum refining, machine-tool operation, and natural gas pipelines.
These bearings also eliminate the need for lubrication, which is important in machines where lubricants can be a source of contamination or in evacuated tubes where lubrication would fail. Magnetic bearings tend to be complex and custom-tailored to the machine, which can drive prices up by as much as $45,000 per bearing, but these low-friction parts could play increasingly important roles in industrial applications if their price comes down.