Towards the end of April 2009, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) announced that the first large-tonnage magnetic levitation (MagLev) bearing chiller in Europe had come on-line at the US Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. However, this was not the first application of MagLev technology in the world – that occurred on Earth Day in 2007, at the US Embassy in Tokyo.
OBO mechanical engineer Michael Christensen commented that a patent for magnetic levitation had been granted as long ago as 1942, but technology then was unable to take advantage of its potential. Ten US patents were awarded on this technology between 1941 and 1978 alone. It is only recently that the emergence of nanosecond-fast semiconductors at last provided the fine-tuned electronic control needed to maintain a motor shaft within microscopic tolerances.