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Curved escalator concept promises to cut energy use by up to half

New research suggests that the Levytator - a curved escalator concept patented by a City academic - could be greener than traditional designs.
by Luke Nava

The Levytator, the world's first escalator capable of following freeform curves, could use half of the energy of conventional designs, according to a new research paper* that was presented at the UK's Symposium on Lift and Escalator Technologies on 29 September 2011.

Unlike traditional escalators, where redundant steps move underneath those in use, the Levytator utilises a continuous loop of curved modules, which can follow any path upwards, flatten and straighten out, and descend once more, all with passengers on board.

This means that a single Levytator with one power source can be used in place of two escalators with separate motors, with the weight of passengers travelling down offsetting the weight of those travelling up, hence creating substantial energy savings.

The concept was developed by Jack Levy, Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering at City University London, who has conducted mathematical modelling of its energy use with fellow University researcher, Elena Shcherbakova.

The resulting paper predicts that a fully-loaded Levytator (with the maximum number of passengers travelling both up and down) would use around 80% of the power of two traditional escalators making the same trips. Meanwhile, a half-loaded Levytator (with the down path full and the up path empty) would use half the energy of the two equivalent escalators.

Professor Levy comments: "The Levytator was primarily developed to give architects the ability to create escalators in any shape they want, but we've now shown that the design could significantly cut power consumption too. As utility bills rise and more organisations strive for green accreditation for their premises, we hope the Levytator can play an important role in cutting both energy use and the associated costs."

The Levytator concept was first unveiled in September 2010, with a YouTube video of a scale working model and computer simulations garnering significant global interest from the media, consumers and businesses.

Aside from its aesthetic and green advantages, the Levytator also provides several practical benefits - maintenance is simpler, as all of the steps can be accessed from above, and no excavation is required when installing it. This means that a Levytator could be placed on top of an existing staircase, giving better access for elderly and disabled people, for example.

City University London is currently in talks with investors, escalator manufacturers, architects and property developers worldwide, to build and install the first full-size Levytator. Interested parties can contact the project's Business Development Manager, David Chan, at David.Chan.1@soi.city.ac.uk or on +44 20 7040 8438.

The Symposium on Lift and Escalator Technologies has been jointly organised by the University of Northampton and the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers' (CIBSE) Lift Group. It is supported by the Lift and Escalator Industry Association and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), with leading speakers from both industry and academia.

* Levy, J., Shcherbakova, E., and Chan, D. 2011. Mathematical Modelling of Comparative Energy Consumption between a Single-loop Curvilinear Escalator (The Levytator) and an Equivalent Pair of Linear Escalators.

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