As architects continue to design taller and taller buildings, a certain limitation of elevators is going to become more of a problem – using traditional steel lifting cables, they can’t go farther than 500 meters (1,640 ft) in one vertical run. Any higher, and the weight of all the cable required is simply too much. Currently in the world's few buildings that are over 500 meters tall, passengers must transfer from one elevator line to another, part way up. Thanks to a new lightweight material known as UltraRope, however, elevators should now be able to travel up to one kilometer (3,281 ft) continuously.
UltraRope was created by Finnish elevator manufacturer Kone, and was unveiled this Monday in London. Instead of having the same cross-sectional shape as cable, it’s more ribbon- or tape-like in form. It’s composed of a carbon fiber core, covered in a high-friction plastic coating. An individual elevator car is lifted and lowered by multiple reels of UltraRope, that run into a hoisting machine at the top of the shaft.
According to Kone, on an elevator traveling 500 meters, UltraRope would reduce the total moving mass by up to 60 percent as compared to steel cables. That percentage would increase with the distance traveled.
This also means that even in buildings standing 500 meters or shorter, where steel cable could still be used, the use of UltraRope would result in substantial energy savings. For that same hypothetical 500-meter elevator, a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption would be realized. Increase the height to 800 meters (2,625 ft), and the claimed energy savings rise to 45 percent.
Additionally, UltraRope is said to be twice as strong as steel, plus it doesn’t require any lubrication, and it’s less sensitive to building sway – something that can cause elevators to shut down. However, there’s currently no word on how the initial cost of UltraRope and the associated machinery compares to that of steel cables.
More information is available in the video below.
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