UltraRope could make kilometer-high elevators possible


June 12, 2013

A new lightweight hoisting line known as UltraRope could double the current maximum height reachable by elevators

A new lightweight hoisting line known as UltraRope could double the current maximum height reachable by elevators

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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.

Source: Kone via New Scientist

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Probably the "cables" (ribbons) are needed to keep the counterweight attached to the elevator..

I was thinking linear motor tech,as well, but harder to energy recover as efficiently as with a counterweight. (with a counterweight the only energy used is to move the people, (and goods) not the lift itself, except for overcoming inertia and friction. )


Keep working on this! I want to ride a space elevator before I retire.


Or you could design elevators that operate like a cog railroad and does not use any cables at all.


Imagine the view that could now be possible!

Carlos Grados

I'm with 'Slowburn' - the thought of an elevator that high gives me goose pimples! I've read of 'lifts' for houses that run on the idea of vacuum. above and air pressure below the cabin, I wonder if they would scale up? At least if the power fails, slowly controlled leakage would gently lower the cabin to the ground floor.

The Skud

What about the same concept as an electric tram/bus. Electric motors in the actual elevator, with dragging contacts on electrified rails that run the length of the shaft.

Such a system could allow for horizontal and vertical shafts to honeycomb a building without complex cabling.


Didn't anybody suggesting some form of linear motor to be used with lifts /elevators read MD's commet (the 4th one from the top)?

The reason cables are used is that they are the most efficient and reliable. Yes, linear motors could be used, but I think energy recuperation from descending lifts with this method would be far less efficient than using a simple counterweight in a standard cable design.

Short Fuse

500 meters seems like an arbitrary limit. I finished a program for a cable lubrication system earlier this year for hoists lowering sensor packages down oil wells and they were dropping them over 20,000 feet. Even take a look at the cranes during skyscraper construction - they go from the top of the building all the way down which can be more than 500m In mines there are hoist that I am sure go more than 500m down in one shot. I just did a quick search for wire rope strength ( and 1 in dia Cable weight 1.85 lbs per foot. Recommeded working weight at 5:1 safety factor is 20680 lbs. At 11178 feet the weight of the cable equals the recommended load. At 5280 feet the weight of the cable is 9758 lbs leaving a capacity of 10912 lbs. While the weight of the cable may be one of the factors limiting the amount a passenger elevator can move I am sure that there must be additional considerations not explained.


years ago at WSU profs were testing melted basalt spun onto a reel. they found it not only had great insulation properties, but had the tensile strength seven times that of steel. I don't see why it couldn't be used and be lighter yet. recently, here on gizmag, there was an article about the strength of graphene. that it might end up being the strongest ever.


re; Short Fuse

The counter weight limits the weight the motor/generator has to lift but it also limits the energy that the motor/generator has for generating electricity on the down run and there is a lot of unnecessary friction with the counter weight. Also using a tram system you can run dozens of cars in the same 2 shafts moving people at a more natural flow.


Another first from Finland.

N.t. Nair

The ultrarope will have many uses, no doubt. But an elevator shaft having only one car to service 300 floors is impractical. To avoid twenty minute elevator rides, programming would prevent stops on most floors for each trip. Then to avoid twenty minute waits at the elevator door, the architect must many (30?) shafts. Using up all that room on every floor is horribly wasteful.

Using motor/generators to power/brake the car means that four or five cars can use each shaft. There are minor limits on where some riders can go, but you get to have something in your building besides shafts.


Steel is much more cheaper to produce than carbon fibre at the moment, although substantial energy and other material savings are possible with this. I wonder about the high friction plastic coating they use.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret

Re Captain Danger

There are other factors at play, like static loading on the motor shafts, practicality of replacing the ropes, strength of and loading on brackets/fixings, physical dimensions of counterweight regards the overruns, testing facilities... There is no mention of from back in 2000 by industry experts, surely this has many of the same benefits as UltraRope


or you could invent a Jetson type vehicle that eliminates elevators.

Stewart Mitchell
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