UltraRope announced to one-stop zoom up tall buildings

Jun 12, 2013 by Nancy Owano weblog

(Phys.org) —Elevator tech has hit a wall, or at least the wrong floor of the person's destination, with limitations that are unable to accommodate the world's tallest buildings. As buildings rise, logistical demands rise with them. The weight of steel cable does not make it easy for elevators to zoom straight to the top. Instead, they reach a limit and that is it. For example, people going up in a 828-metre-high tower, such as in Dubai, need to switch lifts once they have reached the top mark in one elevator, going over for another. Elevators today are also subject to severe strains such as building sway, potentially knocking them out of service under especially poor weather conditions.

"There comes a point when existing solutions can be taken no further. Current elevator technology has taken us as far as it can and refinement simply isn't enough," the elevator company KONE of Espoo, Finland, asserted. Its newly announced hoisting technology solution is something called UltraRope. The announcement was made in London this month as an international conference on tall buildings got under way. Increasingly, tall buildings are growing taller. Nearly 600 buildings of 200 meters or more are under construction or planned over the next few years. Three buildings in the world top the 500-meter mark, and 20 more such buildings are planned.

The new system means elevators can zoom up to the top of a very high skyscraper in a single run, for heights of up to 1000 meters, which is twice as high as what is possible with today's technology, according to KONE.

As for materials, UltraRope has a carbon fiber core with high friction coating. The carbon fiber core lasts longer than conventional steel ropes, said KONE. UltraRope is highly resistant to wear and abrasion and, unlike steel, the structure does not densify and stretch.

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Elevator energy consumption in high-rise buildings can be cut significantly. UltraRope cuts by 15 percent for a 500 meter elevator. "The drop in rope weight means a dramatic reduction in elevator moving masses - the weight of everything that moves when an elevator travels up or down, including the hoisting ropes, compensating ropes, counterweight, elevator car, and passenger load," according to KONE. UltraRope is also less vulnerable to building sway in high winds.

UltraRope was tested in real elevators and simulation laboratories in Finland. KONE noted that its Tytyri R&D facility is the world's tallest testing laboratory, built over 300 meters underground adjacent to a limestone mine. Properties such as tensile strength, bending lifetime, and material aging were among the qualities measured.

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More information: download.kone.com/ultrarope/index.htm

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User comments : 16

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4 / 5 (6) Jun 12, 2013
Still a way to go for the space elevator then.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2013
This solves the problem with elevators for super high buildings. This is good.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2013
Finally some technology from the U.K. It's been a long time since the latest breakthrough, the Flush Toilet.
2 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2013
But why exactly do we need 200m tall buildings?
5 / 5 (5) Jun 13, 2013
Finally some technology from the U.K. It's been a long time since the latest breakthrough, the Flush Toilet.

Didn't know Finland was in the UK...
3 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2013
But why exactly do we need 200m tall buildings?

Lots of things get disproportionately more difficult the taller the building. How much floor space do you have to devote to banks of elevators to move all those people? Are any of those elevators express? Then they're wasted space on the floors they don't service. Or should the elevators be able to stop at every floor? Not very efficient use of the cars! And the residents of lower levels better get used to taking the stairs back to street level.

For reasons other than cable physical properties, you probably don't want too many elevators that can span the entire height of tall buildings.
not rated yet Jun 13, 2013
So why don't we just get rid of the robs at all? Why can't we just use rack and pinion type solution? Or solution similar to used on roller coasters? Drop the electric motor on the lift, rack on the wall and then you only have a weight of cable supplying an electivity. Alternatively you can have "3rt rail" solution that supplies electricity. The your lift becomes eventually a small train but traveling vertically...
not rated yet Jun 13, 2013
Trewoor: Because the fundamental principle of an elevator is that if you have a weight going up attached to an equal weight dropping down, the energy costs are much much smaller than just lifting a weight alone. So when we lift an elevator, it's attached to a counterweight that is dropping as well. Your proposals would have us expend a lot more energy to lift alone, and even with energy recovery mechanisms on the way back down, they wouldn't be as efficient as the good ol' Atwood Machine
5 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2013
Electromagnetic suspension will reduce Ultrarope to a passive safety feature before being replaced entirely.
3 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2013
There are easier ways to overcome this problem. By eliminating cables completely you have no height limit.
not rated yet Jun 13, 2013
@shavera: The big problem of elevators is that you can only have one cabin. If you transform cabins in autonomous vehicles, you can move a bigger number of peoples with a smaller space devoted to elevators systems. The energy recover can be made with the same system of the cable cars: One way up, one way down, a continuous ring of steel rope from top to bottom, and cabins that joins to the rope to go up or down and disconnect when they have to stop.
5 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2013
There are easier ways to overcome this problem. By eliminating cables completely you have no height limit.

While you can do that (e.g. pinion and rack systems - which have all the usual safety features as well) the problem is speed. Cabled elevators can be very fast - which is very important for express elevators that service tall buildings.

Of course you can always go the "Futurama"- way. Leave the elevator stationary and drop the building.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2013
If you want self-powered elevators, the technical solution is easy. Electric motors going up, regenerative braking coming down. As long as traffic is more or less equal each way the grid will even out differences.

However, as Antialias says, the problem is speed. Gear mesh would be critical, and they'd wear rapidly at high speeds. With a cable, the only moving contacts are guide wheels, and the hoist motor can run much faster than motors and gears on an elevator.

A Star Trek style turbolift would be nice, but putting a jet engine on the bottom of an elevator would be both energy inefficient and very noisy. Until we have something newer, cables are probably the best we can do, so we might as well build better cables.
1.5 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2013
Exponential growth forces us up. The doubling time for the population is 35 years. In a short while I shall see my second doubling of the population.
Exponential growth on the finite two dimensional surface of the planet can have only two consequences. It will lead to overshoot and then die-off. We are in the overshoot phase now. Die-off can be observed starting now.
The other and more desireable consequence is that we colonise the Lagrange points, both of the Earth-Moon system and all other desireable two-body systems.
The window of opportunity to choose is closing fast.
I assume that you are speaking for yourself if you recommend die-off.
4 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2013
Egleton: UP isn't the only option. We could also go DOWN. Hollow out hills, above the water table, where flooding would be minimized, and the entire farmable land area could be used for food. Unfarmable land could be left for recreation and wilderness, preserving more of the natural ecosystem, and providing genetic backup for farming, in case we had to domesticate new food plants due to disease or uncontrollable pests.

One way or another, we need to stop building subdivisions on farm land, or we'll run out of food...

I agree, though, that space is the only long-term option for maintaining a technological civilization, simply because we'll run out of mineable resources eventually.
not rated yet Jun 16, 2013
Why don't elevators use linear motors for these enormous heights? This way there is no rope. Obviously not economic for low rise lifts but once the extra moving weight of the rope is significant then such a drive system must be more efficient and economic. Acceleration should be smoother and higher speeds possible. Safety should be easy to incorporate. The lift cage could have something like a big drum brake on the outside held in an off position by the electric power.