Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Nagurka, Mark L.

Second Advisor

Yaz, Edwin

Third Advisor

Stolfi, Fred


Devices using magnetic levitation (maglev) offer the potential for friction-free, high-speed, and high-precision operation. Applications include frictionless bearings, high-speed ground transportation systems, wafer distribution systems, high-precision positioning stages, and vibration isolation tables. Maglev systems rely on feedback controllers to maintain stable levitation. Designing such feedback controllers is challenging since mathematically the electromagnetic force is nonlinear and there is no local minimum point on the levitating force function. As a result, maglev systems are open-loop unstable. Additionally, maglev systems experience disturbances and system parameter variations (uncertainties) during operation. A successful controller design for maglev system guarantees stability during levitating despite system nonlinearity, and desirable system performance despite disturbances and system uncertainties. This research investigates five controllers that can achieve stable levitation: PD, PID, lead, model reference control, and LQR/LQG. It proposes an acceleration feedback controller (AFC) design that attenuates disturbance on a maglev system with a PD controller. This research proposes three robust controllers, QFT, Hinf , and QFT/Hinf , followed by a novel AFC-enhanced QFT/Hinf (AQH) controller. The AQH controller allows system robustness and disturbance attenuation to be achieved in one controller design. The controller designs are validated through simulations and experiments. In this research, the disturbances are represented by force disturbances on the levitated object, and the system uncertainties are represented by parameter variations. The experiments are conducted on a 1 DOF maglev testbed, with system performance including stability, disturbance rejection, and robustness being evaluated. Experiments show that the tested controllers can maintain stable levitation. Disturbance attenuation is achieved with the AFC. The robust controllers, QFT, Hinf , QFT/ Hinf, and AQH successfully guarantee system robustness. In addition, AQH controller provides the maglev system with a disturbance attenuation feature. The contributions of this research are the design and implementation of the acceleration feedback controller, the QFT/ Hinf , and the AQH controller. Disturbance attenuation and system robustness are achieved with these controllers. The controllers developed in this research are applicable to similar maglev systems.