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© 2001 John Wiley & Sons 1

Section 4.4
Elevators
While the invention of steel made skyscrapers possible, the invention of elevators made
them practical. Imagine life in a big city without elevators. Business at the top of World
Trade Centers would be limited to a few world-class athletes.
At the heart of an elevator is a very simple lifting machine. There are only a few dif-
ferent types of elevators and the techniques they use to raise or lower their cars have
changed very little since Elisha Otis invented the safety elevator in 1853. What has
changed is the source of power for operating the elevators and the sophistication of their
control equipment. Electricity has long since replaced steam as the power source and ele-
vator operators have been replaced by computers.
Quest ions t o Think About : Why do many elevators have counterweights that descend
as the car moves upward? Why does an elevator have a weight limit? How fast do eleva-
tors actually move? Why do you feel particularly heavy as the elevator you are in starts
to move upward and light as that elevator starts to move downward?
Experiment s t o Do: Glass elevators are a popular form of functional art, providing ex-
citing views for the passengers and giving you opportunities to see the mechanisms that
make these elevators work. If you look into the shaft of a glass elevator, you will see its
cables or hydraulic piston, its counterweights and its control machinery. Find a glass
elevator and watch it work. Look for a shiny metal piston pushing the car upward from
below or for metal cables lifting the car upward from above. Even if you can’t find an
elevator with visible parts, take a ride on an elevator. You may be able hear its motors
activating, feel the cable lifting the car, or sense a jerkiness in the piston pushing the car
upward. Close your eyes and try to feel the elevator start or stop. Can you tell which way
you are moving when the elevator is traveling steadily up or down? Why do you experi-
Guide track
Lift cables
Control
panel
Door
(retracted)
Vertical
speed
sensor
Guide rollers
2 CHAPTER 4. FLUIDS
ence the same feeling when the car stops moving downward as when the car starts mov-
ing upward?
Pushing Up from Below: Hydraulic Elevators
The two main types of elevators are hydraulic elevators and cable-lifted eleva-
tors. A hydraulic elevator is lifted from below by a long metal shaft while a cable-
lifted elevator is pulled up from above by a long metal cable. Let’s begin by look-
ing at hydraulic elevators. (For an earlier type of elevator, see ❐).
The car of a hydraulic elevator is lifted from below by a hydraulic ram
(Fig. 4.4.1). A hydraulic ram is a long piston that is driven into or out of a hollow
cylinder by pressure in a hydraulic fluid. The hydraulic fluid, usually oil or wa-
ter, exerts a force on any surface it touches, including the base of the piston. If the
pressure in the hydraulic fluid is high enough, the force it exerts on the base of
the piston will exceed the weight of the piston and elevator car and they will ac-
celerate upward.
But as the piston rises, the hydraulic fluid has more space to fill and its
pressure drops. To keep the piston moving upward, something must continu-
ously add high-pressure hydraulic fluid to the cylinder. That something is usu-
ally an electrically powered pump. This pump draws low-pressure hydraulic
fluid from a reservoir and pumps it into the cylinder. The pump does work on
the fluid and this work is what lifts the elevator car.
When the elevator car has reached the proper height, the pump stops and
the piston rests on the high-pressure hydraulic fluid beneath it. As long as the
amount of fluid in the cylinder doesn’t change, the piston and car will stay where
they are as the passengers get on and off.
To let the car descend, the elevator opens a valve and permits the high-
pressure hydraulic fluid to return to the low-pressure reservoir. The fluid natu-
rally accelerates toward the lower pressure and the cylinder begins to empty. The
car descends. However, the fluid in the cylinder has considerable pressure poten-
tial energy and that energy must go somewhere. As it flows through the valve,
the fluid accelerates and it rushes into the reservoir at high speed. But its kinetic
energy soon becomes thermal energy as the fluid swirls around randomly. When
the swirling has stopped, the fluid in the reservoir will be warmer than it was
before the elevator made its trip up and down.
Because it lifts the car from below like a jackscrew, the hydraulic elevator is
naturally very safe. Even if the cylinder springs a leak, the hydraulic fluid will
probably not flow out of the cylinder fast enough for the car to descend at a dan-
gerous speed. But unlike a jackscrew, a hydraulic ram encounters very little fric-
tion and wear, so its piston can move in or out of the cylinder rapidly. As a result,
the car of a hydraulic elevator can be lifted as fast as the pump can deliver high-
pressure hydraulic fluid. Of course, the pump has to do a great deal of work on
that fluid in a short time, so it must be very powerful. Nonetheless, the speed of a
hydraulic elevator is limited only by the power of the pump and the comfort of
the passengers. Most passengers don’t enjoy huge accelerations. While you could
build a hydraulic elevator that would leap from one floor to another in the wink
of an eye, it would require seat belts and airbags.
However, if speed is not important, even a very small pump can lift the
elevator upward. With enough patience, you could actually lift a very heavy ele-
vator with a hand-powered pump. That is just what you do when you lift an
automobile with a hand-powered hydraulic jack or when you squeeze something
together with a hand-powered hydraulic press. In these and many similar tools,
hydraulic rams provide an interesting form of mechanical advantage.
❐ The earliest reliable elevators
were supported by jackscrews:
screws used as lifting devices. A
sturdy threaded shaft, the jack-
screw, extended beneath the eleva-
tor platform and lifted the platform
upward as it turned. The jackscrew
provided mechanical advantage, so
that only a modest torque was
needed to turn the jackscrew and
raise a heavy load on the platform.
But sliding friction in the screw
created heat and wear, limiting the
speed at which the platform could
rise and making jackscrew eleva-
tors impractical in modern sky-
scrapers.
Piston
Cylinder
Hydraulic fluid
Reservoir
Pump
Valve
Elevator
car

Fig. 4.4.1 - A hydraulic elevator
supports the car with a hydraulic
ram. The ram’s piston rises as high-
pressure hydraulic fluid is pushed
into the hollow cylinder by a pump.
The car is lowered by opening the
valve and allowing the high-
pressure hydraulic fluid to flow
back into the storage reservoir.
4.4. ELEVATORS 3
To see how this mechanical advantage works, suppose that you have two
hydraulic rams connected by a hose so that hydraulic fluid can flow freely from
one cylinder to the other (Fig. 4.4.2). One hydraulic ram is much wider than the
other. Since fluid accelerates toward lower pressure, the pressures in the two cyl-
inders will tend to equalize. This pressure exerts an upward force on each piston
equal to the pressure times the surface area of that piston. As a result, the up-
ward force on the wide piston is enough to support the weight of an elevator car
while the upward force on the narrow piston is only enough to support the
weight of your hand. As things stand, neither the elevator nor your hand moves
because each is supported by pressure in the hydraulic fluid.
Now imagine that you begin to push down a little harder on the narrow
piston. The pressure inside that cylinder rises in order to exert an equal but op-
positely directed force on your hand. Because of the pressure imbalance, fluid
begins to flow out of the narrow cylinder and into the wide cylinder. With less
fluid in the narrow cylinder, its piston descends and your hand moves down-
ward. With more fluid in the wide cylinder, its piston rises and the elevator car
move upward. You are raising a heavy elevator with a hand pump!
As usual, you didn’t get something for nothing. Although you have lifted
the elevator upward, it moves only a tiny distance. Pushing the narrow piston
inward a long distance only squeezes a modest amount of fluid into the wide
cylinder. The wide piston moves upward only a very short distance. You have
produced a huge upward force on the elevator and lifted it a short distance by
exerting a modest downward force on the narrow piston and moving it down-
ward a very long distance. The work you do on the fluid is equal to the work the
fluid does on the elevator car. Energy is conserved, as it must be.
The piston of the narrow cylinder will reach the bottom long before the ele-
vator reaches the second floor. To make a more practical hand-powered elevator,
you would need to add several one-way valves and a fluid reservoir to the nar-
row cylinder and convert it into a proper pump. That way you could slowly raise
the elevator upward, with ever so many cycles of the pump: fill the narrow cyl-
inder with fluid and then squeeze it into the wide cylinder, fill the narrow cylin-
der with fluid, and so on. To return the wide piston to its original position and
lower the elevator, a bypass valve should allow the hydraulic fluid to flow back
into the fluid reservoir.
While real hydraulic elevators don’t use hand-pumps of this sort, many
tools do. Small hydraulic rams allow a normal person to exert Herculean forces
on objects. Hand-operated hydraulic rams are used in small cranes, presses,
punches, shears, and jacks. When a motorized pump is added, hydraulic rams
become even more useful. They are ubiquitous in construction and industrial
machines. Nearly every motion of most digging, lifting, and pushing machines is
powered by its own hydraulic ram.
Although hydraulic elevators are wonderful in many situations, they do
have at least two drawbacks. First, a hydraulic elevator is only as tall as its piston
and cylinder. The piston has to reach all the way to the top floor and the equally
tall cylinder must be hidden below the ground. Burying the cylinder is quite a
procedure in a tall build. A deep hole must be drilled and the cylinder must be
lowered into the hole with a crane. The difficulties involved in manufacturing the
cylinder and piston and in assembling the completed hydraulic ram limit its
height. However, some hydraulic elevators are over 30 stories tall.
The other deficiency of hydraulic elevators is that there is no mechanism for
storing energy between trips. The energy expended in lifting people up 30 floors
is not saved as those people descend. It becomes thermal energy in the hydraulic
fluid as the hydraulic fluid returns to the reservoir. For a tall building with lots of
up and down traffic, the elevator can turn a lot of electric energy into thermal
energy in the hydraulic fluid.
Large
force Small
force
Fluid

Fig. 4.4.2 - If fluid can flow freely
between two hydraulic rams, then
the pressures inside the two cylin-
ders are equal. The force exerted on
each piston is equal to that pressure
times the surface area of the piston.
The upward force on the wide pis-
ton is much greater than the up-
ward force on the narrow piston.
4 CHAPTER 4. FLUIDS
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #1: Heavy Lifting
A typical hydraulic elevator is lifted by a piston 20 cm in diameter. Steel is very
strong and a 10 cm steel rod could support the elevator. Why the thick piston?
Pulling Up from Above: Cable-Lifted Elevators
To eliminate the need for long hydraulic rams, most elevators are lifted from
above by cables. Introducing cable-lifted elevators was not easy because people
were wary of any system that would drop catastrophically if the rope broke. In
1853, the American inventor Elisha Graves Otis (1811–1861) demonstrated a
“safety elevator” that would stop automatically if the rope broke (Fig. 4.4.3). In a
further improvement, the ropes used to lift early elevators were replaced with
metal cables, which were less prone to wear and aging and made cable failure a
rare event. With safety no longer an issue, cable-lifted elevators soon became the
dominant form of elevator. But before we look at how a cable-lifted elevator ac-
tually works, we’ll need to know how a rope lifts an object and how pulleys redi-
rect forces exerted on a rope. Let’s take a moment to look at ropes and pulleys.
Suppose that the elevator in your building is broken. You decide to lift the
empty elevator car by hand with a lightweight rope (Fig. 4.4.4). The elevator is on
the ground floor and you are pulling the rope up from the fifth floor, where your
apartment is located. The empty elevator weighs 500 N (112 pounds), which is
about all you can lift. If your arms were long enough, you could pull the elevator
up directly. The rope simply extends your reach so that you can exert an upward
force on the elevator many meters below you.
Pulling on a rope produces tension throughout the rope. Tension means
that each portion of the rope pulls on the two adjacent portions with a certain
amount of force. To keep the empty elevator hanging motionless from the bottom
of the rope, you must pull upward on the rope with 500 N of force. Each portion
of rope then exerts 500 N of upward force on whatever is below it and 500 N of
downward force on whatever is above it. The bottom of the rope exerts 500 N of
upward force on the elevator. Overall, your upward force of 500 N is conveyed
meter by meter along the rope until it’s exerted on the elevator far below. In ef-
fect, you are exerting an upward force of 500 N on the elevator and it’s pulling
back. As promised, the rope simply extends your reach.
Since the elevator weighs 500 N and you are exerting an upward force of
500 N on it, the net force on the elevator is zero and it doesn’t accelerate. Because
the elevator is initially stationary, it remains stationary. If you now exert a little
more upward force on the rope, the elevator will experience a net upward force
and will accelerate toward the fifth floor. Once the elevator has begun to move
upward, you can reduce your force back to 500 N and the elevator will continue
to move upward at constant velocity. You are now doing work on the elevator
because you are pulling upward on it via the rope and it’s moving upward.
Lifting the empty elevator to the fifth floor doesn’t require an enormous
amount of force, but that force must come from the middle of the elevator shaft.
It would be nice to stand somewhere else as you pulled on the rope, so you sus-
pend a pulley in the elevator shaft (Fig. 4.4.5). With the rope draped over the pul-
ley, you can create tension in the rope from a different location. In fact, you can
even pull downward on the rope. While each portion of rope continues to pull
inward on its neighbors, the directions of these forces gradually change as the
rope bends around the pulley. The pulley redirects the forces on the rope so that
a downward force on one end of the rope can exert an upward force on the other
end. This redirection makes it much easier to lift the elevator. A pulley even per-
mits the weight of water to lift an elevator (see ❐).

Fig. 4.4.3 - The modern era of eleva-
tors began in 1853, when Elisha
Otis first demonstrated his Safety
Elevator. He stood in the elevator
car, high above the ground, while
an assistant cut the rope that sup-
ported it. A mechanism in the car
immediately grabbed onto the side
rails and prevented the car from
falling.
Force
Rope
Force
Elevator

Fig. 4.4.4 - If you pull on a very
light, stationary rope, you produce
a uniform tension throughout the
rope that is equal to the force you
exert on it. Each portion of rope, for
example the two end portions or
the shaded portion near the middle,
experiences an upward force from
whatever is above and a downward
force from whatever is below.
4.4. ELEVATORS 5
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #2: Pulling on a Pulley
A rope is draped over a pulley near the ceiling and you and a friend are each
pulling downward on opposite ends. If each of you exerts 100 N of force on an
end, what is the tension in the rope?
Multiple Pulleys
However the elevator is not always empty. Last week the bathtub cracked and
you and your friends pushed it off the fire escape. That was easy enough, al-
though it ruined the flower garden next door. But the new bathtub weighs
1300 N (292 pounds), so how are you going to get it up to your apartment? It has
to ride up in the elevator. You could rig up the same single pulley and get all of
your friends to pull on the rope. But a better idea is to use a multiple-pulley,
sometimes called a block-and-tackle. When you pull on a rope, you produce a
tension all along that rope. If you could use that same tension several times, you
could get mechanical advantage. Here is how a multiple-pulley works.
In a multiple-pulley, the cord goes back and forth between a fixed set of
pulleys and a moving set of pulleys (Fig. 4.4.6). The far end is tied to one of the
pulley sets. It’s important that the cord pass easily over the pulleys. Now when
you create tension in the cord, that same tension appears on every segment of
cord between the two sets of pulleys. If you exert 500 N of force on the cord, each
cord segment will have 500 N of tension. As a result, the two sets of pulleys will
be pulled together with 500 N of force for each segment of cord connecting them.
If there are 4 cord segments attached between the top of the elevator and the fifth
floor, then the total lifting force on the elevator and bathtub will be 2000 N. Since
the bathtub and elevator only weigh 1800 N, they will experience a net upward
force and will accelerate upward.
While it takes less force on the cord to lift the bathtub and elevator with a
multiple pulley than with a single pulley, you don’t get something for nothing.
To lift the elevator 1 m, you must shorten each segment of cord by 1 m. Since
there are 4 segments, you will have to pull 4 m of cord through the system of pul-
leys. You are obtaining mechanical advantage, using a modest force exerted over
a long distance to obtain a larger force exerted over a shorter distance. The
amount of work required to lift the bathtub and elevator to your apartment is the
same, whether you use a single or multiple pulley. The multiple pulley merely
allows you to do this work more gradually, with a smaller force exerted over a
longer distance.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #3: Pulling Yourself Up
If you stood inside the elevator shown in Fig. 4.4.6 and pulled on the free end of
the rope, could you lift yourself up?
Cable-Lifted Elevators and Counterweights
True cable-lifted elevators (Fig. 4.4.7) resemble the hand-powered one we have
just discussed, except that machines pull the cables. In early cable-lifted eleva-
tors, the cables were pulled by steam-powered hydraulic rams. Steam was used
to pump fluid into or out of the ram and the ram’s movement was used to pull
the cables. Usually, the ram was used to separate the two halves of a multiple-
pulley. The cable coming out of this multiple pulley ran over a pulley at the top
of the elevator shaft and down to the elevator car itself. As the two halves of the
F
o
r
c
e
Pulley
Elevator
F
o
r
c
e

Fig. 4.4.5 - With the rope drawn
over a pulley, you can lift the eleva-
tor by pulling from almost any-
where. You exert the same force
and the tension in the rope is the
same, but the pulley redirects the
force to make the job more conven-
ient.
F
o
r
c
e
F
o
r
c
e
Multiple
pulley
Elevator
and tub

Fig. 4.4.6 - A multiple-pulley being
used to lift an elevator and bathtub.
The tension in the rope pulls up-
ward on the elevator four times
because there are four rope seg-
ments between the elevator and the
support above it. The upward force
on the elevator is thus four times
the tension in the rope.
6 CHAPTER 4. FLUIDS
multiple pulleys were drawn apart, they drew in more cable and lifted the eleva-
tor car. As fluid was released from the hydraulic ram, the multiple pulley re-
leased cable and the elevator car descended.
The first improvement that appeared in cable-lifted elevators was the coun-
terweight (Fig. 4.4.8). Lifting the elevator car by itself requires a considerable
amount of work because the car’s gravitational potential energy increases as it
rises. It would be nice to get back this stored energy when the car descends. Un-
fortunately, it’s hard to turn gravitational potential energy back into high-
pressure steam. However, it’s possible to use that energy to lift a counterweight.
The counterweight in an elevator descends when the car rises and rises
when the car descends. Because the two objects have similar masses, the total
amount of mass that is rising or falling as the elevator moves is almost zero. The
overall gravitational potential energy of the elevator is not changing very much;
it’s simply moving around between the various parts of the machine. The coun-
terweight balances the car so that it takes very little power to move the system.
The elevator and counterweight resemble a balanced seesaw, which requires only
a tiny push to make it move.
The counterweight on most elevators hangs from its own cable attached to
the elevator car. That cable travels from the car, over pulleys at the top of the ele-
vator shaft, and down to the counterweight. The counterweight is usually equal
to the mass of the empty elevator car plus about 40% of the elevator’s rated load.
Thus, when the elevator is 40% filled, the counterweight will exactly balance the
car and very little work will be done in raising or lowering the car.
Most modern elevators are driven by electric motors. The advantages of
electric motors are their variable speeds of rotation, high torque, and reliability.
While we will save our discussion of electric motors for a later chapter, we will
note here that electric motors can be made to operate efficiently at many rota-
tional speeds, torques, and overall power-levels. The output power of an electric
motor is frequently rated in horsepower and the motors used in elevators may be
as large as several hundred horsepower.
Because early electric motors could not deliver so much mechanical power,
the first electric elevators used winches to lift their elevator cars. The cable from
the elevator car was actually wound up on a drum at the top of the elevator shaft.
The counterweight was attached to a cable that was also wound on the drum.
The two cables were arranged so that the counterweight cable unwound as the
car cable wound up. An electric motor used gears to turn the drum.
This winch mechanism had a number of disadvantages. It raised or low-
ered the car relatively slowly because the gearing limited the rate at which the
drum could be turned. The overall height of the elevator was limited because the
drum had to be able to hold all of the cable when the elevator was at the top of its
travel. The diameter of the drum was constrained by the need to keep torques
low and only about 100 m of cable could be accommodated.
Instead of winding and unwinding cable from a drum, most modern eleva-
tors use traction to draw a cable over a drum. The cable rises from the elevator
car, travels over the traction drive drum and then descends into the elevator shaft
where it’s attached to the counterweight. An electric motor turns the traction
drive drum. When high speed is not important, the drum can be turned by a
small motor through the use of gears. However, in tall buildings, the drum is
usually turned directly by a large motor. Elevators of this type can run at speeds
as high as 10 m/ s (22 mph) in buildings of any height.
The mechanical power required from the drive motor depends on how well
balanced the car and counterweight are. If the elevator car is loaded to 40% of
capacity so that the two weights are balanced, the motor will have little difficulty
in moving the car up or down. If the car is particularly empty or particularly full,
the motor will have to provide considerable mechanical power when lifting the

Fig. 4.4.7 - The car of this elevator is
pulled upward from above by 4
cables and rides on rails to its left
and right. The riders control the car
through the electric cable hanging
below the car.
Traction
drive
drum
Cable-lifted elevator
C
o
u
n
t
e
r
w
e
i
g
h
t
Elevator
car

Fig. 4.4.8 - A cable-lifted elevator
usually supports the car and a
counterweight from opposite ends
of its cable. A motor turns a traction
drive that either raises or lowers
the car. The counterweight moves
in the other direction, assisting the
motor in lifting the car or storing
energy as the car descends.
4.4. ELEVATORS 7
heavy side of the system and various brakes will have to absorb energy released
by the elevator when the heavy side descends. The motor’s maximum mechanical
power, together with the strength of the cables, limits how much weight the ele-
vator can lift.
In many freight elevators, the car is lifted by a multiple pulley so that a sin-
gle segment of cable doesn’t have to support the entire load. Even when a single
pulley is used, several separate cables support the car, both for safety and to re-
duce cable stretching. Cable stretching is a serious problem in tall elevators. Ten-
sion always tends to pull things apart, so a cable becomes longer. Like most ob-
jects, a cable behaves as a spring when it’s subject to tension. Its length increases
by an amount proportional to the tension it experiences. As people enter the ele-
vator car and its total weight increases, the tension on its support cable increases
and that cable stretches slightly. Modern elevators are equipped with automatic
leveling systems that turn the traction drum to make up for the stretching of the
cables. The passengers are unaware of this careful adjustment taking place as
they step on or off the elevator. Nonetheless, you may be able to feel the cable
stretch if you bounce up and down on a cable-lifted elevator.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #4: A Light Load
If an elevator car is nearly empty and weighs much less than the counterweight,
how much work must the motor do to lift that elevator car upward?
Balance
Elevator cars must remain level no matter where the passengers choose to stand.
The only way to keep the car level is to make it run along a vertical track. To see
why the track is necessary, consider the case of an empty car (Fig. 4.4.9). The lift-
ing force on the car is exerted at the middle of the elevator car, at either its top or
its bottom. The center of mass of the empty car is also at the middle of the eleva-
tor car so the lifting force exerts no torque on the car about its center of mass. The
car remains level.
Now consider what happens when passengers enter the car and begin to
walk around inside. The center of mass of the car moves with the people inside.
Now the lifting force exerts a torque on the car about its new center of mass and
❐ The development of safe eleva-
tors had an enormous effect on
people’s interest in tall buildings.
Suddenly the upper floors became
more desirable than the lower
floors. Speed became very impor-
tant. A “water balance” elevator
was tried in the New York Western
Union Building in 1873. The eleva-
tor car was drawn upward by the
weight of an enormous bucket of
water. To descend, the bucket of
water was emptied. Controlled
only by braking and without any
automatic safety system, this eleva-
tor was too scary to be popular.
Lift
force
Lift
force
Center of
mass/gravity
Weight Weight
Empty elevator car Occupied elevator car
Fig. 4.4.9 - An
empty elevator car
(left) experiences no
torque about its
center of mass so it
remains level. The
occupied car (right)
has a different
center of mass. The
lift force exerts a
torque on this car
about its center of
mass and it begins
rotating. For the car
to remain level as
the passengers
move around, the
car must run in a
track that can exert
leveling torques on
the car.
8 CHAPTER 4. FLUIDS
it tends to rotate. The best way to prevent the car from tilting is to confine the car
on a track. The rails of the track exert the torques needed to keep the car level.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #5: Not on the Level
If the track supporting an elevator car were suddenly removed so that it could
tilt, would its center of gravity move up or down?
Safety
All cable-lifted elevators have safety devices to keep them from falling if their
cables break. Most modern elevators have more than one lifting cable, but they
still require mechanisms to ensure that there are no accidents (see ❐).
The original safety device that Otis developed for his first elevators had
jaws that would grab onto the rails of the elevator track if there were a loss of
tension in the supporting cable. If the cable broke and its tension vanished,
springs would force the jaws into the track.
Modern elevators use mechanisms that monitor the vertical speed of the
elevator. If the speed exceeds a certain permissible value, brakes on the car grab
the tracks. This speed control prevents a nearly empty elevator from moving
upward too quickly just as it prevents a full elevator from falling. One such
speed-sensing device is the centrifugal governor, a mechanism that senses how
quickly a shaft is turning (Fig. 4.4.10). When it’s used with an elevator, the shaft
is turned by a pulley on a special cable attached to the elevator car. The faster the
elevator moves, the faster the shaft turns. The centrifugal governor swings sev-
eral masses around in a circle. Since the masses travel in uniform circular motion,
they need some centripetal force to accelerate them toward the center of the cir-
cle. In the centrifugal governor, this centripetal force is exerted by several rods
that are held apart by a spring.
As long as the shaft is turning slowly, the spring can keep the rods from
moving together. But when the shaft is turning quickly, the centripetal force be-
comes very large and the rods compress the spring. As the rods move, they push
on a lever. In the case of the elevator, this lever activates brakes that slow the ele-
vator down.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #6: Going for a Spin
How does the spinning centrifugal governor sense that the elevator is moving too
fast in either direction?
Starting and Stopping
Simply moving the elevator car up or down is not enough. To be useful, an eleva-
tor must be able to stop at the proper level, exchange passengers or freight, and
then start to move to a new level. To be pleasant to ride, the elevator must start
and stop slowly enough that it doesn’t knock the passengers off their feet. To
meet these added requirements on the motion of the elevator car, variable speed
electric motors are used.
Whether the elevator is handled by an operator or is run automatically, the
torque exerted on the traction drive drum is carefully controlled in order to avoid
sudden accelerations. Whenever the elevator you are in accelerates upward, as it
does when it starts moving upward or stops moving downward, you feel
particularly heavy. Your apparent weight increases because of the upward
acceleration. If the upward acceleration is too great, you may be thrown to the
❐ The only time a safety elevator
plummeted to the bottom of its
shaft was in 1945, when a military
airplane struck the Empire State
Building. The plane lodged in the
elevator shaft near the 79th floor,
cutting all of the cables to the eleva-
tor car on the 38th floor. The car
dropped to the basement, but its
descent was cushioned by the in-
creasing air pressure beneath it and
by a mountain of severed cables
and an emergency bumper at the
bottom of the shaft. The only occu-
pant of the car, a 20-year-old eleva-
tor operator, survived without seri-
ous injury.
Sense lever
Sense lever
Mass Mass
Mass Mass

Fig. 4.4.10 - A centrifugal governor
uses the principle that a central
force is required to accelerate
masses around in a circle. As long
as the shaft is stopped or spinning
slowly (top), the spring can keep
the upper and lower rods apart. But
once the shaft spins too quickly, the
masses swing outward (bottom)
and the sense lever is shifted.
4.4. ELEVATORS 9
tion. If the upward acceleration is too great, you may be thrown to the floor of
car. Whenever the elevator accelerates downward, as its does when it starts mov-
ing downward or stops moving upward, you feel particularly light. Your appar-
ent weight decreases because of the downward acceleration. If the downward
acceleration is too great, you may leave the floor of the elevator and bump
against its ceiling. Only after the elevator reaches constant velocity, either up or
down, does your apparent weight return to your true weight.
A well-designed elevator accelerates and decelerates smoothly and gradu-
ally. This need for smooth deceleration means that the operator or the automatic
mechanism must anticipate stops and begin to decelerate before reaching the
stopping point. Operating an antique elevator, with no machinery to help antici-
pate the stop, required great skill. In manually operated elevators, the operator’s
ability to stop at the correct height limited the maximum vertical speed that
could be used effectively. Modern elevators anticipate stops automatically and
gradually reduce the speed of travel so as to come to a stop at exactly the right
height. These elevators can move up or down extremely quickly and still stop
properly.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #7: Fast Track to the Basement
What would it feel like to be in an elevator car if the cable broke on the top floor
of a skyscraper and no safety mechanism turned on the brakes?
Jackscrew Elevators
One of the oldest and simplest lifting devices is the jackscrew—a screw used as a
lifting mechanism. Jackscrews are used frequently in industry, construction, and
maintenance to support or move heavy objects. Jackscrews are also used to level
buildings and support sagging beams, and the repair jack that you have in your
automobile is probably a jackscrew or a mechanism that incorporates a jack-
screw. It’s not surprising then that early elevators were based on the jackscrew.
The elevator sat on top of a jackscrew and was raised or lowered by turning the
screw into or out of a threaded hole. While jackscrews are no longer used in pas-
senger elevators, they’re still worth a few moments discussion.
A jackscrew elevator consisted of a lifting platform that was pushed up-
ward from below by a jackscrew (Fig. 4.4.11). What made jackscrews so appeal-
ing for early elevators was that they were unlikely to fail catastrophically and
that they exhibited mechanical advantage. The worry about catastrophic failure
was very real before 1853—the cars in elevators built prior to that time were
prone to dropping suddenly when the rope lifting them broke. Since the conse-
quences of such a fall were awful, knowing that a thick metal jackscrew was
pushing the car upward from beneath was very comforting to the passengers.
But what makes jackscrews so useful in lifting devices of all sorts is me-
chanical advantage. A modest torque exerted on the threaded cylinder in a jack-
screw can lift a very heavy object. As we noted in Chapter 1, lifting a piano to the
second floor requires a certain amount of work, regardless of how you get it
there. In that chapter we used a ramp and here we use a jackscrew. Actually, the
jackscrew is just a rotating ramp, so the principle is exactly the same. The jack-
screw allows the elevator operator to do the work required to lift the piano a little
at a time. A modest torque exerted over many, many turns of the screw does the
same amount of work as lifting the piano straight up to the second floor.
However, while a jackscrew provides a great deal of lifting force, it must be
turned very rapidly in order to raise its platform at any reasonable rate. But a
jackscrew encounters sliding friction and becomes extremely hot if it’s turned too

Fig. 4.4.11 - A jack screw uses the
motion of a threaded cylinder—a
screw—through a threaded hole to
raise or lower a heavy object. A
modest torque exerted on the han-
dles will rotate the screw and pro-
duce a very large lifting force on
the lifting platform.
10 CHAPTER 4. FLUIDS
quickly. It may also wear out. Friction and wear severely limit the vertical speed
of a jackscrew elevator and an elevator that climbs upward at only 2 meters-per-
minute will lose many of its passengers to the staircase. Furthermore, the jack-
screw itself must be as tall as the building it serves and buildings have become
very tall. So jackscrew-based elevators quickly gave way to hydraulic and cable-
lift elevators.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #8:
Many two-wheeled car trailers have a jackscrew mounted behind the trailer hitch
to support the front of the trailer when it’s not attached to a car. Even when the
front of the trailer is so heavy that you can’t lift it, the jackscrew lifts it almost
effortlessly. How is that possible?

With enough patience. so that only a modest torque was needed to turn the jackscrew and raise a heavy load on the platform. But as the piston rises. The car is lowered by opening the valve and allowing the highpressure hydraulic fluid to flow back into the storage reservoir. hydraulic rams provide an interesting form of mechanical advantage. . a hydraulic ram encounters very little friction and wear. As a result. the pump has to do a great deal of work on that fluid in a short time. Even if the cylinder springs a leak. so its piston can move in or out of the cylinder rapidly. A sturdy threaded shaft.A hydraulic elevator supports the car with a hydraulic ram. including the base of the piston. the hydraulic fluid will probably not flow out of the cylinder fast enough for the car to descend at a dangerous speed.2 CHAPTER 4. Most passengers don’t enjoy huge accelerations. the pump stops and the piston rests on the high-pressure hydraulic fluid beneath it. if speed is not important. the jackscrew. the fluid accelerates and it rushes into the reservoir at high speed. the force it exerts on the base of the piston will exceed the weight of the piston and elevator car and they will accelerate upward. so it must be very powerful. The fluid naturally accelerates toward the lower pressure and the cylinder begins to empty. The two main types of elevators are hydraulic elevators and cable-lifted elevators. Because it lifts the car from below like a jackscrew.4. A hydraulic ram is a long piston that is driven into or out of a hollow cylinder by pressure in a hydraulic fluid. limiting the speed at which the platform could rise and making jackscrew elevators impractical in modern skyscrapers. The ram’s piston rises as highpressure hydraulic fluid is pushed into the hollow cylinder by a pump. But sliding friction in the screw created heat and wear. While you could build a hydraulic elevator that would leap from one floor to another in the wink of an eye. it would require seat belts and airbags. the hydraulic elevator is naturally very safe. This pump draws low-pressure hydraulic fluid from a reservoir and pumps it into the cylinder. The car descends. As it flows through the valve. (For an earlier type of elevator. the fluid in the cylinder has considerable pressure potential energy and that energy must go somewhere. In these and many similar tools. the speed of a hydraulic elevator is limited only by the power of the pump and the comfort of the passengers. you could actually lift a very heavy elevator with a hand-powered pump.1 . That is just what you do when you lift an automobile with a hand-powered hydraulic jack or when you squeeze something together with a hand-powered hydraulic press. To let the car descend. FLUIDS ence the same feeling when the car stops moving downward as when the car starts moving upward? Pushing Up from Below: Hydraulic Elevators ❐ The earliest reliable elevators were supported by jackscrews: screws used as lifting devices. the piston and car will stay where they are as the passengers get on and off. The jackscrew provided mechanical advantage. Elevator car Piston Hydraulic fluid Cylinder Valve Pump Reservoir Fig. If the pressure in the hydraulic fluid is high enough. But its kinetic energy soon becomes thermal energy as the fluid swirls around randomly. Nonetheless. The car of a hydraulic elevator is lifted from below by a hydraulic ram (Fig. That something is usually an electrically powered pump. 4. However. the fluid in the reservoir will be warmer than it was before the elevator made its trip up and down. usually oil or water. see ❐). A hydraulic elevator is lifted from below by a long metal shaft while a cablelifted elevator is pulled up from above by a long metal cable. extended beneath the elevator platform and lifted the platform upward as it turned. As long as the amount of fluid in the cylinder doesn’t change. The hydraulic fluid. However. the car of a hydraulic elevator can be lifted as fast as the pump can deliver highpressure hydraulic fluid. the elevator opens a valve and permits the highpressure hydraulic fluid to return to the low-pressure reservoir.4. 4. Of course. The pump does work on the fluid and this work is what lifts the elevator car. Let’s begin by looking at hydraulic elevators. When the elevator car has reached the proper height. the hydraulic fluid has more space to fill and its pressure drops. something must continuously add high-pressure hydraulic fluid to the cylinder. To keep the piston moving upward.1). even a very small pump can lift the elevator upward. exerts a force on any surface it touches. When the swirling has stopped. But unlike a jackscrew.

With less fluid in the narrow cylinder. and so on.2 .2). Pushing the narrow piston inward a long distance only squeezes a modest amount of fluid into the wide cylinder. punches. many tools do. fluid begins to flow out of the narrow cylinder and into the wide cylinder. Because of the pressure imbalance. ELEVATORS 3 Large force To see how this mechanical advantage works.4. For a tall building with lots of up and down traffic. its piston descends and your hand moves downward. a bypass valve should allow the hydraulic fluid to flow back into the fluid reservoir. Nearly every motion of most digging. With more fluid in the wide cylinder. You have produced a huge upward force on the elevator and lifted it a short distance by exerting a modest downward force on the narrow piston and moving it downward a very long distance. Small force Fluid Fig. they do have at least two drawbacks. the upward force on the wide piston is enough to support the weight of an elevator car while the upward force on the narrow piston is only enough to support the weight of your hand. its piston rises and the elevator car move upward. a hydraulic elevator is only as tall as its piston and cylinder. One hydraulic ram is much wider than the other. They are ubiquitous in construction and industrial machines. Small hydraulic rams allow a normal person to exert Herculean forces on objects. you would need to add several one-way valves and a fluid reservoir to the narrow cylinder and convert it into a proper pump. Since fluid accelerates toward lower pressure. as it must be. Hand-operated hydraulic rams are used in small cranes. While real hydraulic elevators don’t use hand-pumps of this sort. Now imagine that you begin to push down a little harder on the narrow piston. The difficulties involved in manufacturing the cylinder and piston and in assembling the completed hydraulic ram limit its height. shears. and jacks. However.4. As a result. Although you have lifted the elevator upward. Burying the cylinder is quite a procedure in a tall build. 4. it moves only a tiny distance. presses. A deep hole must be drilled and the cylinder must be lowered into the hole with a crane. 4. neither the elevator nor your hand moves because each is supported by pressure in the hydraulic fluid. The pressure inside that cylinder rises in order to exert an equal but oppositely directed force on your hand. As things stand. The energy expended in lifting people up 30 floors is not saved as those people descend. To return the wide piston to its original position and lower the elevator. The upward force on the wide piston is much greater than the upward force on the narrow piston. This pressure exerts an upward force on each piston equal to the pressure times the surface area of that piston. To make a more practical hand-powered elevator. The piston of the narrow cylinder will reach the bottom long before the elevator reaches the second floor. . lifting. When a motorized pump is added. Energy is conserved. the pressures in the two cylinders will tend to equalize.4. First. The wide piston moves upward only a very short distance. suppose that you have two hydraulic rams connected by a hose so that hydraulic fluid can flow freely from one cylinder to the other (Fig. then the pressures inside the two cylinders are equal. It becomes thermal energy in the hydraulic fluid as the hydraulic fluid returns to the reservoir. fill the narrow cylinder with fluid.4. Although hydraulic elevators are wonderful in many situations. That way you could slowly raise the elevator upward. The force exerted on each piston is equal to that pressure times the surface area of the piston. You are raising a heavy elevator with a hand pump! As usual. hydraulic rams become even more useful. with ever so many cycles of the pump: fill the narrow cylinder with fluid and then squeeze it into the wide cylinder. some hydraulic elevators are over 30 stories tall. The other deficiency of hydraulic elevators is that there is no mechanism for storing energy between trips.If fluid can flow freely between two hydraulic rams. The piston has to reach all the way to the top floor and the equally tall cylinder must be hidden below the ground. The work you do on the fluid is equal to the work the fluid does on the elevator car. you didn’t get something for nothing. and pushing machines is powered by its own hydraulic ram. the elevator can turn a lot of electric energy into thermal energy in the hydraulic fluid.

Lifting the empty elevator to the fifth floor doesn’t require an enormous amount of force. Tension means that each portion of the rope pulls on the two adjacent portions with a certain amount of force.4. In fact. The rope simply extends your reach so that you can exert an upward force on the elevator many meters below you. Steel is very strong and a 10 cm steel rod could support the elevator. 4. the American inventor Elisha Graves Otis (1811–1861) demonstrated a “safety elevator” that would stop automatically if the rope broke (Fig. In effect.3 . If your arms were long enough. you produce a uniform tension throughout the rope that is equal to the force you exert on it. The empty elevator weighs 500 N (112 pounds). the rope simply extends your reach. 4. Overall. most elevators are lifted from above by cables. experiences an upward force from whatever is above and a downward force from whatever is below. You are now doing work on the elevator because you are pulling upward on it via the rope and it’s moving upward. you must pull upward on the rope with 500 N of force. But before we look at how a cable-lifted elevator actually works. Why the thick piston? Pulling Up from Above: Cable-Lifted Elevators To eliminate the need for long hydraulic rams.4. you are exerting an upward force of 500 N on the elevator and it’s pulling back. when Elisha Otis first demonstrated his Safety Elevator. 4. Fig. which were less prone to wear and aging and made cable failure a rare event.3).4 CHAPTER 4. A pulley even permits the weight of water to lift an elevator (see ❐). Each portion of rope. It would be nice to stand somewhere else as you pulled on the rope. To keep the empty elevator hanging motionless from the bottom of the rope. while an assistant cut the rope that supported it. 4. Let’s take a moment to look at ropes and pulleys. so you suspend a pulley in the elevator shaft (Fig. high above the ground. you can create tension in the rope from a different location. You decide to lift the empty elevator car by hand with a lightweight rope (Fig. 4. you could pull the elevator up directly.4). The elevator is on the ground floor and you are pulling the rope up from the fifth floor. the net force on the elevator is zero and it doesn’t accelerate. A mechanism in the car immediately grabbed onto the side rails and prevented the car from falling. Once the elevator has begun to move upward. Since the elevator weighs 500 N and you are exerting an upward force of 500 N on it. In 1853.5). If you now exert a little more upward force on the rope. The pulley redirects the forces on the rope so that a downward force on one end of the rope can exert an upward force on the other end. With safety no longer an issue. With the rope draped over the pulley. Force Rope Force Elevator Fig. Suppose that the elevator in your building is broken. which is about all you can lift. your upward force of 500 N is conveyed meter by meter along the rope until it’s exerted on the elevator far below.4. you can even pull downward on the rope. we’ll need to know how a rope lifts an object and how pulleys redirect forces exerted on a rope. Because the elevator is initially stationary.4 . Each portion of rope then exerts 500 N of upward force on whatever is below it and 500 N of downward force on whatever is above it. where your apartment is located. but that force must come from the middle of the elevator shaft. This redirection makes it much easier to lift the elevator. The bottom of the rope exerts 500 N of upward force on the elevator. cable-lifted elevators soon became the dominant form of elevator.If you pull on a very light.4.The modern era of elevators began in 1853.4. While each portion of rope continues to pull inward on its neighbors. In a further improvement. stationary rope. Introducing cable-lifted elevators was not easy because people were wary of any system that would drop catastrophically if the rope broke. the elevator will experience a net upward force and will accelerate toward the fifth floor. the directions of these forces gradually change as the rope bends around the pulley. it remains stationary. . the ropes used to lift early elevators were replaced with metal cables. Pulling on a rope produces tension throughout the rope. for example the two end portions or the shaded portion near the middle. FLUIDS CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #1: Heavy Lifting A typical hydraulic elevator is lifted by a piston 20 cm in diameter. He stood in the elevator car. As promised. you can reduce your force back to 500 N and the elevator will continue to move upward at constant velocity.

with a smaller force exerted over a longer distance. It’s important that the cord pass easily over the pulleys. Steam was used to pump fluid into or out of the ram and the ram’s movement was used to pull the cables. Since there are 4 segments.6). you will have to pull 4 m of cord through the system of pulleys. using a modest force exerted over a long distance to obtain a larger force exerted over a shorter distance. But the new bathtub weighs 1300 N (292 pounds). The amount of work required to lift the bathtub and elevator to your apartment is the same.4. You could rig up the same single pulley and get all of your friends to pull on the rope. the two sets of pulleys will be pulled together with 500 N of force for each segment of cord connecting them. In early cable-lifted elevators.6 . The multiple pulley merely allows you to do this work more gradually. 4. the cables were pulled by steam-powered hydraulic rams. Since the bathtub and elevator only weigh 1800 N.5 .4. To lift the elevator 1 m. In a multiple-pulley. sometimes called a block-and-tackle. you must shorten each segment of cord by 1 m. . then the total lifting force on the elevator and bathtub will be 2000 N.4. although it ruined the flower garden next door. 4.With the rope drawn over a pulley. CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #3: Pulling Yourself Up If you stood inside the elevator shown in Fig.4. could you lift yourself up? Elevator Fig. they will experience a net upward force and will accelerate upward. The far end is tied to one of the pulley sets. But a better idea is to use a multiple-pulley. except that machines pull the cables. Now when you create tension in the cord. Last week the bathtub cracked and you and your friends pushed it off the fire escape.7) resemble the hand-powered one we have just discussed. If you could use that same tension several times. each cord segment will have 500 N of tension. you don’t get something for nothing. Multiple pulley Force For ce Elevator and tub Cable-Lifted Elevators and Counterweights True cable-lifted elevators (Fig.4. ELEVATORS 5 CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #2: Pulling on a Pulley A rope is draped over a pulley near the ceiling and you and a friend are each pulling downward on opposite ends. you can lift the elevator by pulling from almost anywhere. that same tension appears on every segment of cord between the two sets of pulleys. When you pull on a rope. While it takes less force on the cord to lift the bathtub and elevator with a multiple pulley than with a single pulley. That was easy enough. If you exert 500 N of force on the cord. the cord goes back and forth between a fixed set of pulleys and a moving set of pulleys (Fig. As the two halves of the Fig. The tension in the rope pulls upward on the elevator four times because there are four rope segments between the elevator and the support above it.A multiple-pulley being used to lift an elevator and bathtub. The cable coming out of this multiple pulley ran over a pulley at the top of the elevator shaft and down to the elevator car itself. you could get mechanical advantage. 4.6 and pulled on the free end of the rope. you produce a tension all along that rope. whether you use a single or multiple pulley. If each of you exerts 100 N of force on an end. If there are 4 cord segments attached between the top of the elevator and the fifth floor. You are obtaining mechanical advantage. but the pulley redirects the force to make the job more convenient. 4.4.4. the ram was used to separate the two halves of a multiplepulley. The upward force on the elevator is thus four times the tension in the rope. You exert the same force and the tension in the rope is the same. Here is how a multiple-pulley works. Usually. As a result. what is the tension in the rope? Force Pulley rce Fo Multiple Pulleys However the elevator is not always empty. 4. so how are you going to get it up to your apartment? It has to ride up in the elevator.

the first electric elevators used winches to lift their elevator cars. As fluid was released from the hydraulic ram. The overall gravitational potential energy of the elevator is not changing very much. The counterweight in an elevator descends when the car rises and rises when the car descends. multiple pulleys were drawn apart. the multiple pulley released cable and the elevator car descended. Traction drive drum Elevator car Cable-lifted elevator Fig.6 CHAPTER 4. 4.7 . the drum can be turned by a small motor through the use of gears. While we will save our discussion of electric motors for a later chapter. The cable rises from the elevator car. they drew in more cable and lifted the elevator car.4. The overall height of the elevator was limited because the drum had to be able to hold all of the cable when the elevator was at the top of its travel. It raised or lowered the car relatively slowly because the gearing limited the rate at which the drum could be turned. most modern elevators use traction to draw a cable over a drum. in tall buildings. Lifting the elevator car by itself requires a considerable amount of work because the car’s gravitational potential energy increases as it rises. An electric motor turns the traction drive drum. The cable from the elevator car was actually wound up on a drum at the top of the elevator shaft. The counterweight on most elevators hangs from its own cable attached to the elevator car. If the car is particularly empty or particularly full.A cable-lifted elevator usually supports the car and a counterweight from opposite ends of its cable. Thus. When high speed is not important. The first improvement that appeared in cable-lifted elevators was the counterweight (Fig. That cable travels from the car. torques. the counterweight will exactly balance the car and very little work will be done in raising or lowering the car. The two cables were arranged so that the counterweight cable unwound as the car cable wound up. which requires only a tiny push to make it move. However. However. The diameter of the drum was constrained by the need to keep torques low and only about 100 m of cable could be accommodated. The mechanical power required from the drive motor depends on how well balanced the car and counterweight are. 4. The advantages of electric motors are their variable speeds of rotation. when the elevator is 40% filled. Most modern elevators are driven by electric motors. it’s hard to turn gravitational potential energy back into highpressure steam. assisting the motor in lifting the car or storing energy as the car descends. The riders control the car through the electric cable hanging below the car. and reliability. Because the two objects have similar masses. high torque. If the elevator car is loaded to 40% of capacity so that the two weights are balanced. Because early electric motors could not deliver so much mechanical power. 4. we will note here that electric motors can be made to operate efficiently at many rotational speeds. A motor turns a traction drive that either raises or lowers the car. it’s simply moving around between the various parts of the machine.The car of this elevator is pulled upward from above by 4 cables and rides on rails to its left and right. and down to the counterweight. The counterweight moves in the other direction. it’s possible to use that energy to lift a counterweight. It would be nice to get back this stored energy when the car descends.8 .4. The counterweight is usually equal to the mass of the empty elevator car plus about 40% of the elevator’s rated load. The counterweight balances the car so that it takes very little power to move the system. the total amount of mass that is rising or falling as the elevator moves is almost zero. over pulleys at the top of the elevator shaft. and overall power-levels. This winch mechanism had a number of disadvantages. the drum is usually turned directly by a large motor. FLUIDS Fig. the motor will have to provide considerable mechanical power when lifting the Counterweight . Unfortunately.8). The counterweight was attached to a cable that was also wound on the drum. travels over the traction drive drum and then descends into the elevator shaft where it’s attached to the counterweight.4. Instead of winding and unwinding cable from a drum. the motor will have little difficulty in moving the car up or down. Elevators of this type can run at speeds as high as 10 m/s (22 mph) in buildings of any height. The output power of an electric motor is frequently rated in horsepower and the motors used in elevators may be as large as several hundred horsepower. The elevator and counterweight resemble a balanced seesaw. An electric motor used gears to turn the drum.

An empty elevator car (left) experiences no torque about its center of mass so it remains level.4. at either its top or its bottom. Controlled only by braking and without any automatic safety system. Speed became very important. The motor’s maximum mechanical power. ELEVATORS 7 ❐ The development of safe elevators had an enormous effect on people’s interest in tall buildings.4. limits how much weight the elevator can lift. Like most objects. a cable behaves as a spring when it’s subject to tension. 4. The lifting force on the car is exerted at the middle of the elevator car. consider the case of an empty car (Fig. As people enter the elevator car and its total weight increases. The center of mass of the empty car is also at the middle of the elevator car so the lifting force exerts no torque on the car about its center of mass. Lift force Lift force Center of mass/gravity Weight Weight Empty elevator car Occupied elevator car . the tension on its support cable increases and that cable stretches slightly. For the car to remain level as the passengers move around. Modern elevators are equipped with automatic leveling systems that turn the traction drum to make up for the stretching of the cables. Tension always tends to pull things apart. you may be able to feel the cable stretch if you bounce up and down on a cable-lifted elevator.4. so a cable becomes longer. In many freight elevators.9 . The occupied car (right) has a different center of mass. 4. The center of mass of the car moves with the people inside.9). how much work must the motor do to lift that elevator car upward? Balance Elevator cars must remain level no matter where the passengers choose to stand. both for safety and to reduce cable stretching. the car must run in a track that can exert leveling torques on the car. The passengers are unaware of this careful adjustment taking place as they step on or off the elevator. together with the strength of the cables. To descend. The elevator car was drawn upward by the weight of an enormous bucket of water. The lift force exerts a torque on this car about its center of mass and it begins rotating. Now consider what happens when passengers enter the car and begin to walk around inside. the bucket of water was emptied. To see why the track is necessary. Cable stretching is a serious problem in tall elevators. Even when a single pulley is used. Its length increases by an amount proportional to the tension it experiences. The only way to keep the car level is to make it run along a vertical track. several separate cables support the car. the car is lifted by a multiple pulley so that a single segment of cable doesn’t have to support the entire load. Suddenly the upper floors became more desirable than the lower floors. Nonetheless. A “water balance” elevator was tried in the New York Western Union Building in 1873. this elevator was too scary to be popular. heavy side of the system and various brakes will have to absorb energy released by the elevator when the heavy side descends. The car remains level. Now the lifting force exerts a torque on the car about its new center of mass and Fig.4. CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #4: A Light Load If an elevator car is nearly empty and weighs much less than the counterweight.

4. they need some centripetal force to accelerate them toward the center of the circle. When it’s used with an elevator. In the case of the elevator. To be useful. The centrifugal governor swings several masses around in a circle. when a military airplane struck the Empire State Building. this centripetal force is exerted by several rods that are held apart by a spring. variable speed electric motors are used. The rails of the track exert the torques needed to keep the car level. FLUIDS it tends to rotate. As long as the shaft is stopped or spinning slowly (top). CHAPTER 4. Whether the elevator is handled by an operator or is run automatically. In the centrifugal governor. But once the shaft spins too quickly. springs would force the jaws into the track. as it does when it starts moving upward or stops moving downward. To meet these added requirements on the motion of the elevator car. the spring can keep the rods from moving together. Simply moving the elevator car up or down is not enough. Whenever the elevator you are in accelerates upward. The faster the elevator moves. One such speed-sensing device is the centrifugal governor. would its center of gravity move up or down? Safety All cable-lifted elevators have safety devices to keep them from falling if their cables break. As long as the shaft is turning slowly. But when the shaft is turning quickly. To be pleasant to ride. The plane lodged in the elevator shaft near the 79th floor. a 20-year-old elevator operator. If the cable broke and its tension vanished. 4.10). CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #6: Going for a Spin Sense lever Mass Mass Sense lever How does the spinning centrifugal governor sense that the elevator is moving too fast in either direction? Starting and Stopping Mass Mass Fig. the centripetal force becomes very large and the rods compress the spring. If the speed exceeds a certain permissible value. Modern elevators use mechanisms that monitor the vertical speed of the elevator. Your apparent weight increases because of the upward acceleration. brakes on the car grab the tracks. If the upward acceleration is too great. The only occupant of the car. a mechanism that senses how quickly a shaft is turning (Fig. you may be thrown to the . and then start to move to a new level. the shaft is turned by a pulley on a special cable attached to the elevator car. you feel particularly heavy. the spring can keep the upper and lower rods apart.4. cutting all of the cables to the elevator car on the 38th floor. This speed control prevents a nearly empty elevator from moving upward too quickly just as it prevents a full elevator from falling. the masses swing outward (bottom) and the sense lever is shifted. CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #5: Not on the Level If the track supporting an elevator car were suddenly removed so that it could tilt. As the rods move. the torque exerted on the traction drive drum is carefully controlled in order to avoid sudden accelerations. exchange passengers or freight. The original safety device that Otis developed for his first elevators had jaws that would grab onto the rails of the elevator track if there were a loss of tension in the supporting cable. 4. the elevator must start and stop slowly enough that it doesn’t knock the passengers off their feet. but they still require mechanisms to ensure that there are no accidents (see ❐). but its descent was cushioned by the increasing air pressure beneath it and by a mountain of severed cables and an emergency bumper at the bottom of the shaft.A centrifugal governor uses the principle that a central force is required to accelerate masses around in a circle. this lever activates brakes that slow the elevator down. survived without serious injury. the faster the shaft turns. they push on a lever. Most modern elevators have more than one lifting cable. an elevator must be able to stop at the proper level.10 . The best way to prevent the car from tilting is to confine the car on a track.8 ❐ The only time a safety elevator plummeted to the bottom of its shaft was in 1945. The car dropped to the basement. Since the masses travel in uniform circular motion.

This need for smooth deceleration means that the operator or the automatic mechanism must anticipate stops and begin to decelerate before reaching the stopping point. Since the consequences of such a fall were awful. 4.A jack screw uses the motion of a threaded cylinder—a screw—through a threaded hole to raise or lower a heavy object. either up or down. But a jackscrew encounters sliding friction and becomes extremely hot if it’s turned too m r o f t al p g ni t f L de a rhT tr o p u s de a rhT r e d ni l y c el d n a H el d n a H Fig. you feel particularly light.4.4. the jackscrew is just a rotating ramp.11). construction. If the upward acceleration is too great. The worry about catastrophic failure was very real before 1853—the cars in elevators built prior to that time were prone to dropping suddenly when the rope lifting them broke. Jackscrews are used frequently in industry. However. while a jackscrew provides a great deal of lifting force. you may leave the floor of the elevator and bump against its ceiling. the operator’s ability to stop at the correct height limited the maximum vertical speed that could be used effectively. regardless of how you get it there. you may be thrown to the floor of car. Operating an antique elevator. lifting a piano to the second floor requires a certain amount of work.4. and the repair jack that you have in your automobile is probably a jackscrew or a mechanism that incorporates a jackscrew. While jackscrews are no longer used in passenger elevators.4. The elevator sat on top of a jackscrew and was raised or lowered by turning the screw into or out of a threaded hole. . The jackscrew allows the elevator operator to do the work required to lift the piano a little at a time. A modest torque exerted over many. with no machinery to help anticipate the stop. ELEVATORS 9 tion. Your apparent weight decreases because of the downward acceleration. Whenever the elevator accelerates downward. knowing that a thick metal jackscrew was pushing the car upward from beneath was very comforting to the passengers. it must be turned very rapidly in order to raise its platform at any reasonable rate. required great skill. But what makes jackscrews so useful in lifting devices of all sorts is mechanical advantage. These elevators can move up or down extremely quickly and still stop properly. so the principle is exactly the same. 4. many turns of the screw does the same amount of work as lifting the piano straight up to the second floor. Only after the elevator reaches constant velocity. If the downward acceleration is too great.11 . As we noted in Chapter 1. In manually operated elevators. and maintenance to support or move heavy objects. It’s not surprising then that early elevators were based on the jackscrew. as its does when it starts moving downward or stops moving upward. Actually. A well-designed elevator accelerates and decelerates smoothly and gradually. What made jackscrews so appealing for early elevators was that they were unlikely to fail catastrophically and that they exhibited mechanical advantage. CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #7: Fast Track to the Basement What would it feel like to be in an elevator car if the cable broke on the top floor of a skyscraper and no safety mechanism turned on the brakes? Jackscrew Elevators One of the oldest and simplest lifting devices is the jackscrew—a screw used as a lifting mechanism. they’re still worth a few moments discussion. A modest torque exerted on the threaded cylinder in a jackscrew can lift a very heavy object. Modern elevators anticipate stops automatically and gradually reduce the speed of travel so as to come to a stop at exactly the right height. does your apparent weight return to your true weight. Jackscrews are also used to level buildings and support sagging beams. A jackscrew elevator consisted of a lifting platform that was pushed upward from below by a jackscrew (Fig. In that chapter we used a ramp and here we use a jackscrew. A modest torque exerted on the handles will rotate the screw and produce a very large lifting force on the lifting platform.

the jackscrew itself must be as tall as the building it serves and buildings have become very tall.10 CHAPTER 4. the jackscrew lifts it almost effortlessly. It may also wear out. So jackscrew-based elevators quickly gave way to hydraulic and cablelift elevators. FLUIDS quickly. CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING #8: Many two-wheeled car trailers have a jackscrew mounted behind the trailer hitch to support the front of the trailer when it’s not attached to a car. Even when the front of the trailer is so heavy that you can’t lift it. How is that possible? . Furthermore. Friction and wear severely limit the vertical speed of a jackscrew elevator and an elevator that climbs upward at only 2 meters-perminute will lose many of its passengers to the staircase.