Computex: even 4000 earthquakes a year are no match for these 660 tonnes
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Computex: even 4000 earthquakes a year are no match for these 660 tonnes

Martin Jud
Zurich, on 01.06.2019
Support: Kevin Hofer
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
It's not a novelty, nevertheless it's a masterpiece of technology and architecture. We say our goodbyes to Computex 2019 and Taipei with a visit to the world's most powerful tuned mass damper.

It hangs across the 88th to the 92nd floors of the once largest skyscraper in the world, weighing as much as 132 elephants: the gold-plated steel pendulum hanging in the 508-metre-high Taipei 101 skyscraper weighs in at 660 tonnes. It stabilises the tower.

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It usually takes a lot of patience to visit the tuned mass damper. Fortunately, Kevin and I did our research: we were at the building at 9 o'clock sharp and didn't have to wait in line. Half an hour later and you'll be waiting for over 30 minutes – even longer from noon onwards.

The lift brought us up 89 stories at a break-neck 60 km/h. It'll make your stomach churn and ears pop. You'll have to go on foot to reach the 91st floor. The view is impressive, even if the smog ruins the sights that one could enjoy in the Swiss alps.

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Taiwan is hit by over 4000 earthquakes and up to nine typhoons every year – every fifth year, a severe earthquake rocks the island nation. It takes courage and the right technology to build a skyscraper like the Taipei 101. Until 2007 it was the largest skyscraper in the world, aside from antennas and masts.

Taipei 101, currently the second tallest office building in the world, has five underground and 101 above-ground floors. The architecture is based on a bamboo shoot. The 101 is supported by 557 concrete piers. Two 4.5-tonne dampers are fitted in the antennas for stabilization. And then there's that mighty pendulum with a five-metre diameter.

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The mighty sphere consists of 41 massive steel plates of different diameters. They're all 12.5 cm thick and firmly welded together.

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16 steel ropes, each consisting of more than 2000 woven steel strands and weighing a total of 20 tons, support the damper. If necessary, it swings up to 1.5 meters sideways. There are eight vertical and eight horizontal hydraulic dampers on the ground below the ball. The 660 tonne ball construction helps the Taipei 101 reduce building vibration by up to 40 percent. In addition to protecting against earthquakes and typhoons, the innovation also reduces normal wind-related fluctuations and stabilizes the tower.

By the way: tuned mass dampers as in the 101 aren't open to visitors anywhere else in the world. Too bad, to see such a masterstroke of engineering with one's own eyes is impressive and the technology behind it even more so.

This ends our reporting from Taipei. What did you think of our contributions from Computex? Should we go again next year? What do we need to improve, aside from our English? Let me know in the comments.

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Martin Jud
Martin Jud
Editor, Zurich
I find my muse in everything. When I don’t, I draw inspiration from daydreaming. After all, if you dream, you don’t sleep through life.

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