Need for speed? How coasters are getting faster and scarier
This summer, amusement parks around the U.S. are opening roller coasters that are bigger, faster, and scarier than ever thanks in part to technology that will soon help launch jets off U.S. Navy carriers. If you love roller coasters, check out the awesome POV videos.
On some of the newest roller coasters, there is no long, steady climb up a track before the screaming begins. The screaming starts right away when rides are launched using electromagnetic technology, called linear synchronous motor or LSM, that can catapult a coaster from zero to up to 100 miles an hour in just seconds.
The technology and speed allow for near vertical climbs and drops, gravity-defying stunts and record-breaking roller coaster designs. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom ride supervisor Charles Laureano says the electromagnetic technology, which was first installed on coasters in 1996, has improve dramatically. "It's a lot more efficient. It uses less power. We launch coasters faster and we can accelerate faster as well."
The Superman Ultimate Flight ride uses LSM to launch riders at 63 miles an hour through a tunnel and send them up more than 100 feet above the ground, where they momentarily hang upside down with only a lap bar holding them in their seats.
A similar electromagnetic technology, called LIM or linear induction motors, powers Six Flag Discovery Kingdom's Vertical Velocity ride.
The new Full Throttle coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain boasts three launches using LSM, including one that takes riders up and over a world-record 160-foot loop.
The U.S. Navy is developing the same technology for its next generation of aircraft carriers. The Navy has partnered with General Atomics to produce the electromagnetic launch system or EMALS, which will replace the current steam catapult system that has been in operation since the mid-1950's.
The Navy is nearing completion on the first aircraft carrier with EMALS, the Gerald R. Ford. In the meantime, the Navy has been testing just about every type, model, and series of aircraft with the new system. While EMALS technology is similar to roller coaster launch technology, according to a Navy spokesman, the force necessary to launch a Navy aircraft is approximately 10 times greater than the force necessary to propel roller coaster carts.
Even wooden roller coasters are getting modern makeovers this summer with state-of-the-art designs that make some feel as smooth and fast as some steel coasters. On the new Gold Striker at California's Great America, riders are shot through zero-G camelbacks and extreme banking turns.
So thrill seekers, it's time to get your scream on.