Most of us probably don’t think too much about elevators as particularly high tech machines that go through lots of advancements but, just like most other commonly used technologies, they are and they do.
Over the 160 or so years since their first invention as purely mechanical devices, elevators have been a highly important part of almost all modern buildings with heights of more than 2 stories. Despite their constantly increasing use and ubiquitous nature throughout urban developments the world over, they nonetheless have until more recent history gone through some fairly modest technical developments, mainly in terms of design material (as with almost anything else in modern buildings) and speed, due to the ever growing height of some skyscrapers.
Lately however, due to the truly gigantic proportions of some modern towers, new elevator technology has seen a boom in development as efforts to make lifts that can actually get people within a reasonable time to the top of buildings that reach nearly a kilometer into the sky get underway.
Let’s go over some recent innovations in Elevator design and function.
As we’ve already mentioned, modern elevators are being tested to their speed limits with the development of ever taller skyscrapers. In some extreme cases such as those found with building such as the soon to be finished Shanghai Tower in Shanghai China, the Burj Kalifa in Dubai and numerous other new high rises, the heights needed to be reached by elevator systems approach nearly a kilometer! Because of this, the technology needed to lift these heavy boxes towards the top floors quickly has had to be overhauled and updated.
Some of the latest speed developments come from these very same high rise projects and include, as an example, The new Shanghai Tower, being built in China to a height of nearly 700 meters will have the latest Mitsubishi designed ultra-fast elevators, capable of achieving speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour. Thanks to a high powered electrical motor and cables that are made of high strength steel encased in extremely smooth but hard plastic, the dramatically reduced friction allows the 59 foot per second upwards movement of these new lifts.
Additionally, the Burj Kalifa tower in Dubai also incorporates some of the latest developments in elevator speed technology through its own double floored lifts, capable of going up at a much slower but still extremely fast 26 miles per hour thanks to a smooth design that minimizes friction thanks to a polyurethane coating formed into a belt over top of a series of steel cables. This technology, just like that soon to be found in Shanghai Tower, also allows for lubricant free movement with much less friction than older designs.
Green Friendly Elevators
Another recent innovation, designed to minimize the amount of power used by elevators has revolved around lifts that can use less power on the one hand and on the other generate a percentage of their own electricity.
In several newer elevator applications, the very motors that run the lift also generate a percentage of its electrical needs by harnessing the kinetic energy inherent in the up and down movements of these machines. With this new eco-friendly design innovation, elevator installations in many large new buildings are potentially capable of generating as much as 30 to 35% of their own electrical power simply by being used.
Another environmentally friendly, energy efficient elevator tech development has been the machine-room-less elevator. These newer elevator designs incorporate a system of smaller gear less or very efficiently geared elevators that are assisted by digital control technology and variable speed/frequency drive motors to create a situation in which, despite frequent use, the lifts in a building use as much as 60% less energy than is the case with fluid filled hydraulic elevators that require far more infrastructural support and give out less for the work put into moving them up or down. Furthermore, as the name of this development suggests, the lack of hydraulics eliminates the need for a large machine room to be a part of these elevators designs.
Elevators just like any other transportation technology– will continue to advance. The technical innovations covered above represent only a key fraction of what is being developed and will be developed in the years to come as buildings become radically more advanced, taller and more energy use conscious.
Richard Tucker writes on business solutions and on latest technology. Know more about energy efficient elevator components for KONE Escalator Parts. Visit to know more about it latest developments at Technobol.