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November 8, 2017

Maglev elevators set to propel skyscrapers even higher

Burj Khalifa has had a decent run as the world’s tallest building since its official opening in January 2010. Dubai’s trademark building has a few years left at the top of the world, but will soon be eclipsed by Saudi Arabia’s kilometre-high ­Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, and the 928-metre Dubai Creek Tower, both of which are scheduled for completion in 2020.

Such towering buildings may be dwarfed in the future however, as a new rope-free elevator technology enables architects to extend the reach of the modern skyscraper ever higher into the heavens.

Key to this development will be German elevator manufacturer Thyssenkrupp, which this summer unveiled the first commercial order for its groundbreaking “Multi” elevator system, to be deployed in Berlin’s new East Side Tower.

At 140 metres, the new building will not be raising too many eyebrows. It will, however, be the first building in the world to use Thyssenkrupp’s elevator system, which uses magnetic levitation instead of a traditional cable system.

Thyssenkrupp is touting Multi as having several advantages over traditional cable elevators, not least that it will be able to travel up and down much faster.

Using maglev technology similar to that used by upcoming Hyperloop transport systems and Shanghai’s 400kph Transrapid train service, Thyssenkrupp claims its elevator cabins can move at up to 18 metres a second, or about twice as fast as traditional lifts. By comparison, Burj Khalifa’s elevators, built by United States manufacturer Otis, travel at about 10 metres per second.

A number of buildings, including Burj Khalifa, currently use double-deck elevators to increase passenger capacity. Thyssenkrupp’s system takes it to the next level, so to speak, since the absence of cables means that several cabins can operate in the same shaft.

Multi’s cabins run independently of each other and, according to the company, can be removed from shafts for servicing one at a time. Maintenance can be thus be performed on individual cabins without shutting down the whole system, leaving the rest of the cabins free to run as normal.

The larger impact of removing cables from the equation, however, is that buildings will be able to reach even loftier heights.

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