Will the next New Year’s Eve Ball be made with carbon fiber?
Millions of people tune in to watch the New Year’s Eve Ball drop in Times Square in New York City. Each year, the event grows in popularity, due in part to all the hype that goes into the events surrounding the drop: live music from the hottest bands, celebrity visits, television coverage—you name it! So, each year, organizers can depend on more and more eyeballs focused on that beautiful ball come midnight. As a result, the great sphere has received several makeovers throughout the years to keep it looking just as fresh and modern as each new generation of revelers.
Since the first ball dropped in 1907, seven versions of the ball have dropped, each having been updated using the most advanced materials of the day, and each designed to be bigger and brighter. The first was made of iron and wood and featured one hundred 25-watt light bulbs. It was five feet in diameter, weighed 700 pounds, and was lowered from a local flagpole. Since then, it’s seen wrought iron, colored bulbs, rhinestones, strobes, computer controls, and more, depending on the era.
The current New Year’s Eve Ball is built on an aluminum frame, 12 feet in diameter, and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds (that’s almost six tons). It is covered with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, each bolted into 672 LED modules on the frame. There are more than 32,000 LED lights at the core. This latest edition is considered to be the most energy efficient to date. Because visitors to New York City want to see the attraction year-round, it is also now a permanent fixture atop the One Times Square building, sparkling above the streets for public view January through December.
So when will New York City and Big Ball organizers decide it’s time for yet another updated version? And what elements will comprise the new ball? Composites could play into the design.
- • If the next ball were to follow a century’s worth of trends, it will be bigger than its predecessor. Bigger usually means heavier. If the ball were constructed using a carbon fiber frame rather than aluminum, designers could match or likely improve strength properties, while saving 30 to 50 percent on the frame’s weight.
- • Carbon fiber composites, when properly fabricated, stand up to the severe conditions of outdoor use over time, including drastic changes in temperature and moisture. Now that the ball resides atop One Times Square year-round, composite materials like carbon fiber could extend the durability and lifespan of the next big ball.
- • Will the ball be a “ball” forever? When using the right fabric weave and when combined with resin, composite fabrics like carbon fiber conform to nearly any complex shape, considerably more so than metals. The Big Ball may eventually take on the shape of a “Big Apple,” akin to the 1980s-era iteration. It could be a banana for that matter! Composite materials open up the possibility for shape.