Engineering innovations drive economy and business forward. There is always further room for innovation, wherever there is space for a process, building or system to be made more efficient or sustainable. Despite being quite a terrible year for a number of reasons, innovation was still abundant in 2016. Here are the top 5 engineering innovations of 2016.
1. ThyssenKrupp MULTI Elevator
Elevators have been short of innovation in their lifetime. Their basic concept, consisting of a large box pulled by a cable up a shaft, has remained largely unchanged over the last 150 years. Whilst buildings have gotten taller, more money and space is needed for elevator installation, with longer and longer cables required. Because of their poor economics, elevators can become a significant hindrance to building height and city density.
The ThyssenKrupp MULTI Elevator, debuted this year, seeks to change all of that. This engineering innovation aims to increase elevator capacity, reduce the system weight and most importantly, take away the constraints imposed by elevators before it. Instead of using cables, linear induction motors (incredibly strong magnets) power the elevator. As well as reducing the systems weight, this means that the elevator can move in any direction, not just vertical. Therefore they could connect to other buildings and lead to other advantages such as shorter waiting times, smaller elevator footprint. Testing will begin in Germany next year.
2. Gensler’s Shanghai Tower
Shanghai, China homes the worlds second tallest skyscraper. However, it is not the size of this building which is the innovation, but its design. The spiral shape of the tower allows the 632 metres tall structure to withstand typhoon force winds. Its 121 floors are divide into nine zones, consisting of shops at the base, offices, hotels, cultural facilities and observation decks at the top. The key feature of the tower however is its sustainable design.
Each zone within the tower is organised around a ‘sky lobby’, levels filled with plants and natural light, hence mimicking town parks and used as social environments which also purify the internal air. The tower exterior is double walled, creating a thermos effect, keeping the interior warm in winter and cool in summer. The tower is so sustainable that it has been awarded a China Green Building Three Star rating, as well as a LEED® Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
3. Alptransit Gotthard Base Tunnel
3rd on our list of greatest engineering innovations 2016 is the Alptransit Gotthard Base tunnel. Opened June of this year, the world’s longest tunnel 2400 meters below the alps will allow passengers to travel from Zurich to Milan in 2 hours and 50 minutes. At 35 miles, this incredible feat of engineering surpasses its predecessor, Japan’s Seikan tunnel, by 20 miles. Construction has been going on for 20 years, with over $10 billion invested by the Swiss government. During construction, excavation of 31 million tons of rock occurred over the whole project. The project recycled 60% of this rock, using it in the tunnels lining.
4. The SpaceX reusable Falcon 9 Rocket
Space exploration is a massively expensive business. Rockets cost up to $60 million per launch, used only once. The SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket seeks to cut the costs of launch by $20 million by reusing the spacecraft. This year SpaceX have successfully landed their rocket on a sea going platform. This will be necessary for the project to be a success. SpaceX has been leading up to this development since their founding in 2008.
5. The Zayed National Museum
The Zayed National Museum being built in the United Arab Emirates was conceived as a monument to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and developed into an innovative design to negate the blistering UAE heat. Besides being visually striking, the museums wings mimic those of falcons. They allow rising hot air to escape the museum insides, whilst drawing cool air in. The complex will be built underground due to the need to further escape the heat.