The readers of this blog know well that I am not afraid to criticize my country. When I do this, it’s because I really wish we could sort out its dysfunctionalities. The first step to take is, therefore, to recognize these difficulties. Nevertheless, I’m also aware of the positive peculiarities that still make Italy unique. One such characteristic is the creativity that we have been exploiting throughout the centuries. It has allowed us not only to create famous works of art but also to excel in the fields of science and invention.

The origin of our creative thinking is a long debated topic. Although there is not a commonly agreed upon explanation, I believe there is no doubt about the flexibility of our mindset. When it comes to practical matters, it allows us to find unconventional solutions and to deal with unexpected problems even if we have not been trained to handle them (mind you, we don’t use always this capability for good things …).

Although Italy is going through a dark time from an economic and social standpoint, it seems that we didn’t yet lose our creativity, as proven by the successful stories of my compatriots around the world (Diego Piacentini, Renzo Piano, and Luca Maestri to mention a few). These achievements look even more brilliant if we take into account the context in which these people have been educated. It is known, for example, that Italy spends little in R&D compared to the other industrialized countries. Maybe the lack of resources is truly one of the reasons behind Italian ingenuity since we have been used to these circumstances for a very long time because my country is not rich in natural resources either.

It seems that this long tradition of creativity is still alive in the field of engineering, too. I have seen with my own eyes. At the beginning of February, I had the privilege to test a prototype based on a new technology which, in principle, could revolutionize the world of railway transport and more. Named IronLev, this technology has been developed by a group composed entirely of Italians and consisting of “a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, IP experts and marketing people with direct experience in high-tech development and commercialization and a successful track-record of patents”, as stated by their website. This is the official video of the presentation which briefly describes the passive magnetic levitation concept which is the basis of IronLev:

Put simply, the train is magnetically anchored to the track. The ingenious idea is that the existing rails are part of the magnetic circuit itself. The rest of the circuit consists of the permanent magnets that are placed at the bottom of the car. By replacing the traditional wheels, this system reduces friction dramatically as there is no physical contact between the car and the rails. Consequently, there is no need to replace the existing rails.  Brilliant!

I took some pictures of the prototype …


… but the most exciting thing is to move a 2-ton platform with just one arm!

The IronLev team is aware that a significant effort is still required to turn this prototype into a commercial product. Of course, I can’t tell if the project will be successful as I don’t have a crystal ball. Nevertheless, I wish the IronLev team to success in achieving its dream. In any case, they should be proud of what they have done as contemporary, emblematic representatives of the Italian creativity at its best.



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