We're used to elevators being able to take us up and down. But, it's long been dreamed of them being able to take us left and right within a single building. Now that the demand for greater vertical living increases, there is even a greater sense of urgency. Vertical elevators have several limitations such as cable length and the space required for their mechanisms and so far, only practical explanation of horizontal elevators are ones that are similar to rapid mass transit systems.
Now, there is a new system that uses magnetic levitation technology. Magnetic levitation or Maglev is already employed on a number of mass rail transport systems and now the engineering company ThyssenKrupp has developed and elevator that uses a direct drive magnetic system to take lifts on a loop system that could change the way we live.
The new multi-lift is capable of continuously running through the shafts of a building in every direction. Because the system doesn't use cables, it is not restricted in the path that it takes. According to an article in the Financial Times, "When a multi-system lift reaches the top of the shaft, it then moves horizontally before descending in a separate column. It this loop concept that enables the use of multiple cars in a single column and avoids the need for a large block of lift shafts such as those found at the center of todays skyscrapers."
The new multi-lift will be demonstrated in a new 240 meter test tower being built in Rottweil, Germany and due to open in 2016. Since these lifts will move in all directions it's expected that they will ultimately speed up the transportation of passengers. However, one much older and faster system is being given a new lease on life by Hitachi.
Paternoster lifts have a series of open cabins that slowly move on a continuous loop up and down the inside the shaft and passengers step into and off from the moving chassis. The first was installed in the Oriel Chambers of Liverpool in 1868 and a few survive today. However, due to the safety issues of people stepping unto continuously moving cubicles, they are no longer allowed to be installed in many countries. But now, Hitachi has started to build a paternoster lift fit for the 21st century. Titled 'circulating multi-car elevator system' uses a series of circulating steel rope systems with two diametrically counter balanced cubicles on each rope that is independently controlled. According to this video, this system also saves valuable real estate and power since the new system can carry twice as many passengers as a conventional system so that if a building once required five shafts, it now only needs two.
These new lift innovations are just two of the latest technologies that are being explored as we continue our inexorable rise high into the sky.