June 15th 2013
WHEN Elisha Otis stood on a platform at the 1854 World Fair in New York and ordered an axeman to cut the rope used to hoist him aloft, he changed cityscapes for ever. To the amazement of the crowd his new safety lift dropped only a few inches before being held by an automatic braking system. This gave people the confidence to use what Americans insist on calling elevators. That confidence allowed buildings to rise higher and higher.
They could soon go higher still, as a result of another breakthrough in lift technology. This week Kone, a Finnish liftmaker, announced that after a decade of development at its laboratory in Lohja, which sits above a 333-metre-deep mineshaft which the firm uses as a test bed, it has devised a system that should be able to raise an elevator a kilometre (3,300 feet) or more. This is twice as far as the things can go at present. Since the effectiveness of lifts is one of the main constraints on the height of buildings, Kone’s technology—which replaces the steel cables from which lift cars are currently suspended with ones made of carbon fibres—could result in buildings truly worthy of the name “skyscraper”.
Story continues here: economist.com
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