Lifts and Skyscrapers – The Other Mile-High Club

A new lightweight lift cable will let buildings soar ever upward

Carbon fibres are both stronger and lighter than steel. In particular, they have great tensile strength, meaning they are hard to break when their ends are pulled. That strength comes from the chemical bonds between carbon atoms: the same sort that give strength to diamonds. Kone embeds tubes made of carbon fibre in epoxy, and covers the result in a touch coating to resist wear and tear.

According to Johannes de Jong, Kone’s head of technology for large projects, the steel ropes in a 400-metre-high lift weigh about 18,650kg. An UltraRope for such a lift would weigh 1,170kg. Altogether, the lift using the UltraRope would weigh 45% less than the one with the steel rope.

The sky’s the limit

Nor need carbon-fibre lift-cables be confined to buildings. They could eventually make an idea from science fiction a reality too. Space lifts, dreamed up in the late 1950s, are a way of getting into orbit without using a rocket. Building one would mean lowering a cable from a satellite in a geosynchronous orbit above the Earth’s equator while deploying a counterbalancing cable out into space.

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