A revolutionary new elevator system is capable of moving horizontally as well as vertically by employing ultra-strong magnets for independent propulsion in lieu of the traditional cable-hoisting mechanism.

The multi-directional elevator developed by German engineering giant ThyssenKrupp derives its inspiration from high-speed monorail systems, in particular the Transrapid magnetic levitation system which was first deployed commercially with the Shanghai Maglev Train.

Each of the elevator cabins functions in a manner akin to a self-propelling single-carriage train, employing the same the linear motor technology that was first developed for the Transrapid monorail.

This form of magnetic propulsion marks a radical departure from rail and counterweight system employed by conventional elevators, which has remained essentially unchanged since the development of the first modern lift by British engineers in 1835.

ThyssenKrupp’s new elevator would use a single magnetic motor to propel itself laterally as well as vertically, while employing a “multi-level brake system” to bring itself to a halt.

In addition to expanding the range of movement of individual elevators, the technology would also permit the expansion of elevator system designs from vertical, one-dimensional columns to two-dimensional loop structures consisting of both horizontal and vertical legs.

The stepped up complexity of these elevator loops would make a single system capable of accommodating multiple cabins that move in multiple directions.

According to ThyssenKrupp, this increased capacity could radically increase the efficiency and convenience of elevator systems, with a cabin never more than a minute away from a passenger stop assuming a travelling speed of five metres per second.

The heightened efficiency of a multi-cabin elevator system could also translate into massive space savings, with ThyssenKrupp claiming it could provide a staggering 40 per cent more usable floor area in a multi-storey building.

This in turn would give architects far greater scope to play with skyscraper designs by dispensing with the need for an elevator shaft running through much of the vertical distance of a building.

ThyssenKrupp currently plans to run trials of a test unit by 2016 in a high-rise building located in the southern German city of Rottweil.