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Tesla turbine

Tesla turbine at Nikola Tesla Museum.

The Tesla turbine is a bladeless centripetal ow turbine

patented by Nikola Tesla in 1913. It is referred to as Tesla turbine
a bladeless turbine. The Tesla turbine is also known as
the boundary layer turbine, cohesion-type turbine, and
Prandtl layer turbine (after Ludwig Prandtl) because it
uses the boundary layer eect and not a uid impinging upon the blades as in a conventional turbine. Bioengineering researchers have referred to it as a multiple
disk centrifugal pump.[1][2] One of Teslas desires for implementation of this turbine was for geothermal power,
which was described in Our Future Motive Power.[3]

View of Tesla turbine bladeless design

A Tesla turbine consists of a set of smooth disks, with

nozzles applying a moving gas to the edge of the disk.
The gases drag on the disk by means of viscosity and the
adhesion of the surface layer of the gas. As the gas slows
and adds energy to the disks, it spirals into the center exhaust. Since the rotor has no projections, it is very sturdy.

from the turbine, as may be dictated by the circumstances

in each case, will obviously suggest themselves but if it is
carried out on these general lines it will be found highly
protable to the owners of the steam plant while permitting the use of their old installation. However, the best
economic results in the development of power from steam
by the Tesla turbine will be obtained in plants especially
adapted for the purpose.[4]

Tesla wrote, This turbine is an ecient self-starting

prime mover which may be operated as a steam or mixed
uid turbine at will, without changes in construction and
is on this account very convenient. Minor departures


This turbine can also be successfully applied to condensing plants operating with high vacuum. In such a case,
owing to the very great expansion ratio, the exhaust mixture will be at a relatively low temperature and suitable
for admission to the condenser. Better fuel has to be used
and special pumping facilities provided but the economic
results attained will fully justify the increased outlay.
All the plates and washers are tted on and keyed to a
sleeve threaded at the ends and equipped with nuts and
collars for drawing the thick end-plates together or, if desired, the collars may be simply forced onto it and the
ends upset. The sleeve has a hole tting snugly on the
shaft, to which it is fastened as usual.
This construction permits free expansion and contraction of each plate individually under the varying inuence of heat and centrifugal force and possesses a number of other advantages which are of considerable practical importance. A larger active plate area and consequently more power is obtained for a given width, improving eciency. Warping is virtually eliminated and
smaller side clearances may be used, which results in diminished leakage and friction losses. The rotor is better
adapted for dynamic balancing and through rubbing friction resists disturbing inuences thereby ensuring quieter
running. For this reason and also because the discs are not
rigidly joined it is protected against damage which might
otherwise be caused by vibration or excessive speed.

An ecient Tesla turbine requires close spacing of the
disks. For example, a steam-powered type must maintain 0.4 millimeter (.016 inch) inter-disk spacing. The
disks must be extremely smooth to minimize surface and
shear losses. Disks must also be very thin to prevent drag
and turbulence at disk edges. Unfortunately, preventing
disks from warping and distorting was a major challenge
in Teslas time. It is thought that this inability to prevent
the disks distorting contributed to the commercial failure
of the turbines, because metallurgical technology at the
time was not able to produce disks of sucient quality
and rigidity.

2 Pump
If a similar set of disks and a housing with an involute
shape (versus circular for the turbine) are used, the device can be used as a pump. In this conguration a motor
is attached to the shaft. The uid enters near the center, is given energy by the disks, then exits at the periphery. The Tesla turbine does not use friction in the conventional sense; precisely, it avoids it, and uses adhesion
(the Coand eect) and viscosity instead. It utilizes the
boundary layer eect on the disc blades.
Smooth rotor disks were originally proposed, but these
gave poor starting torque. Tesla subsequently discovered
that smooth rotor disks with small washers bridging the
disks in ~1224 places around the perimeter of a 10 disk
and a second ring of 612 washers at a sub-diameter made
for a signicant improvement in starting torque, without
compromising eciency.

3 Applications

View of Tesla turbine system

The Tesla turbine has the trait of being in an installation

normally working with a mixture of steam and products
of combustion and in which the exhaust heat is used to
provide steam which is supplied to the turbine, providing
a valve governing the supply of the steam so that the pressures and temperatures can be adjusted to the optimum
working conditions.
As diagrammed, a Tesla turbine installation is:
1. Able to start with steam alone

Teslas patents state that the device was intended for the
use of uids as motive agents, as distinguished from the
application of the same for the propulsion or compression
of uids (though the device can be used for those purposes as well). As of 2006, the Tesla turbine has not
seen widespread commercial use since its invention. The
Tesla pump, however, has been commercially available
since 1982[5] and is used to pump uids that are abrasive, viscous, shear sensitive, contain solids, or are otherwise dicult to handle with other pumps. Tesla himself did not procure a large contract for production. The
main drawback in his time, as mentioned, was the poor
knowledge of materials characteristics and behaviors at
high temperatures. The best metallurgy of the day could
not prevent the turbine disks from moving and warping
unacceptably during operation.

In 2003 Scott OHearen took a patent on the Radial tur2. A disc type adapted to work with uids at high tem- bine blade system. This invention utilizes a combination

of the concepts of a smooth runner surface for working
uid frictional contact and that of blades projecting axially from plural transverse runner faces. Author, Harikishan Gupta E., & Author, Shyam P. Kodali (2013). Design and Operation of Tesla Turbo machine - A state of
the art review. International Journal of Advanced Transport Phenomena, 2(1), 2-3.
Today, many amateur experiments in the eld have been
conducted using Tesla turbines which use compressed air,
steam as its power source (the steam being generated with
heat from fuel combustion, from a vehicles turbocharger
or from solar radiation). The issue of the warping of
the discs has been partially solved using new materials such as carbon ber. For example, both PNGinc
and International Turbine And Power, LLC[6] use carbon
ber discs in their Tesla turbine designs.
One proposed current application for the device is a waste
pump, in factories and mills where normal vane-type
turbine pumps typically get blocked.
Applications of the Tesla turbine as a multiple-disk centrifugal blood pump have yielded promising results.[7]
Biomedical engineering research on such applications has
been continued into the 21st century.[8]

Teslas design sidestepped the key drawbacks of the

bladed turbine. It does suer from other problems such as
shear losses and ow restrictions. Some of Tesla turbines
advantages lie in relatively low ow rate applications or
when small applications are called for. The disks need to
be as thin as possible at the edges in order not to introduce
turbulence as the uid leaves the disks. This translates
to needing to increase the number of disks as the ow
rate increases. Maximum eciency comes in this system
when the inter-disk spacing approximates the thickness
of the boundary layer, and since boundary layer thickness
is dependent on viscosity and pressure, the claim that a
single design can be used eciently for a variety of fuels
and uids is incorrect. A Tesla turbine diers from a conventional turbine only in the mechanism used for transferring energy to the shaft. Various analyses demonstrate
the ow rate between the disks must be kept relatively low
to maintain eciency. Reportedly, the eciency of the
Tesla turbine drops with increased load. Under light load,
the spiral taken by the uid moving from the intake to the
exhaust is a tight spiral, undergoing many rotations. Under load, the number of rotations drops and the spiral becomes progressively shorter. This will increase the shear
losses and also reduce the eciency because the gas is in
contact with the discs for less distance.

In 2010, U.S. Patent 7,695,242 was issued to Howard

Eciency is a function of power output. A moderate load
Fuller for a wind turbine based on the Tesla design.[9]
makes for high eciency. Too heavy a load increases the
slip in the turbine and lowers the eciency; with too light
a load, little power is delivered to the output, which also
decreases eciency (to zero at idle). This behaviour is
4 Eciency and calculations
not exclusive to Tesla turbines.
In Teslas time, the eciency of conventional turbines was
low because the aerodynamic theory needed for eective
blade design did not exist and the low quality of materials
available to construct those blades put severe limitations
on operating speeds and temperatures. The eciency of
a conventional turbine is related to the pressure dierence
between the intake and the exhaust. Tesla turbines ability
to run on higher temperature gasses than bladed turbines
of the time could lend to its greater eciency.

The turbine eciency of the gas Tesla turbine is estimated to be above 60, reaching a maximum of 95 percent. Keep in mind that turbine eciency is dierent
from the cycle eciency of the engine using the turbine.
Axial turbines which operate today in steam plants or jet
engines have eciencies of about 6070% (Siemens Turbines Data). This is dierent from the cycle eciencies
of the plant or engine which are between approximately
25% and 42%, and are limited by any irreversibilities to
be below the Carnot cycle eciency. Tesla claimed that a
steam version of his device would achieve around 95 percent eciency.[10][11] Actual tests of a Tesla Steam Turbine at the Westinghouse works showed a steam rate of 38
pounds per horsepower-hour, corresponding to a turbine
eciency in the range of 20%, while contemporary steam
turbines could often achieve turbine eciencies of well
over 50%. The methods and apparatus for the propulsion
of uids and thermodynamic transformation of energy
were disclosed in various patents. The thermodynamic
eciency is a measure of how well it performs compared
to an isentropic case. It is the ratio of the ideal to the actual work input/output. This can be taken to be the ratio
of the ideal change in enthalpy to the real enthalpy for the
same change in pressure.
In the 1950s, Warren Rice attempted to re-create Teslas
experiments, but he did not perform these early tests on a


ber there is an optimum value of Reynolds number for maximum eciency. With common uids, the required disk spacing is dismally small
causing [rotors using] laminar ow to tend to
be large and heavy for a prescribed throughow
Extensive investigations have been made of
Tesla-type liquid pumps using laminar-ow rotors. It was found that overall pump eciency
was low even when rotor eciency was high
because of the losses occurring at the rotor entrance and exit earlier mentioned.[14]:4
Modern multiple stage bladed turbines typically reach 60
70% eciency, while large steam turbines often show
turbine eciency of over 90% in practice. Volute rotor matched Tesla-type machines of reasonable size with
common uids (steam, gas, and water) would also be expected to show eciencies in the vicinity of 6070% and
possibly higher.[14]

5 See also
List of Tesla patents
Radial turbine
Tesla coil

6 External links
pump built strictly in line with the Teslas patented design
(it, among other things, was not a Tesla multiple staged
turbine nor did it possess Teslas nozzle).[12] Rices experimental single stage systems working uid was air.
Rices test turbines, as published in early reports, produced an overall measured eciency of 3641% for a
single stage.[12] Higher percentages would be expected if
designed as originally proposed by Tesla.
In his nal work with the Tesla turbine and published just
prior to his retirement, Rice conducted a bulk-parameter
analysis of model laminar ow in multiple disk turbines. A
very high claim for rotor eciency (as opposed to overall
device eciency) for this design was published in 1991
titled Tesla Turbomachinery.[13] This paper states:
With proper use of the analytical results, the
rotor eciency using laminar ow can be very
high, even above 95%. However, in order to
attain high rotor eciency, the owrate number must be made small which means high rotor eciency is achieved at the expense of using
a large number of disks and hence a physically
larger rotor. For each value of ow rate num-

Former Rockwell engineer Je Hayes explains how

a Tesla Turbine works

7 References
[1] Miller, G. E.; Sidhu, A; Fink, R.; Etter, B. D. (1993).
July). Evaluation of a multiple disk centrifugal pump
as an articial ventricle. Articial Organs 17 (7): 590
592. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1594.1993.tb00599.x. PMID
[2] Miller, G. E.; Fink, R. (1999). June). Analysis of
optimal design congurations for a multiple disk centrifugal blood pump. Articial Organs 23 (6): 559
565. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1594.1999.06403.x. PMID
[3] Nikola Tesla, "Our Future Motive Power".
[4] Nicola Tesla in British Patent 179,043 on RexResearch a website dedicated to old inventions and inventors.
[5] Disco Disc Pump Technology
[6] ITC using carbon ber discs in their Tesla turbines



[7] Miller, G. E.; Etter, B. D.; Dorsi, J. M. (1990). February). A multiple disk centrifugal pump as a blood ow
device. IEEE Trans. Biomed Eng 37 (2): 157163.
doi:10.1109/10.46255. PMID 2312140.
[8] Manning, K. B.; Miller, G. E. (2002). Flow through
an outlet cannula of a rotary ventricular assist device.
Articial Organs 26 (8): 714723. doi:10.1046/j.15251594.2002.06931_4.x. PMID 12139500.
[9] New Wind Turbine Patent Issued (Press release). Solar
Aero Research. 3 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
[10] Stearns, E. F., "The Tesla Turbine". Popular Mechanics,
December 1911. (Lindsay Publications)
[11] Andrew Lee Aquila, Prahallad Lakshmi Iyengar, and
Patrick Hyun Paik, "The Multi-disciplinary Fields of
Tesla; bladeless turbine".
[12] "Debunking the Debunker, Don Lancaster Again Puts His
Foot In", Tesla Engine Builders Association.
[13] "Interesting facts about Tesla" Q&A: I've heard stories
about the Tesla turbine that cite a gure of 95% eciency. Do you have any information regarding this claim?
And, why haven't these devices been utilized in the mainstream?. 21st Century Books.
[14] Rice, Warren, "Tesla Turbomachinery". Conference
Proceedings of the IV International Tesla Symposium,
September 2225, 1991. Serbian Academy of Sciences
and Arts, Belgrade, Yugoslavia. (PDF)

Stockbridge, Frank Parker (March 1912). The
Tesla Turbine: A Machine As Big As A Derby
Hat That Generates 110 Horsepower. The Worlds
Work: A History of Our Time. XXIII: 543548. Retrieved 2009-07-10.

7.2 Patents
US1061206 Turbine - New and useful Improvements in Rotary Engines and Turbines
US1329559 Valvular Conduit - Includes the Tesla
gas turbine
GB186082 Improvements in the Construction of
Steam and Gas Turbines - Form of rotor
GB186083 Economic Transformation of the Energy
of Steam by Turbines - Tesla turbine system
U.S. Patent 6,726,442, Disc turbine inlet to assist
self-starting, Letourneau (February 11, 2002)
U.S. Patent 6,682,077, Labyrinth seal for disc turbine, Letourneau (February 13, 2002)
U.S. Patent 6,692,232, Rotor assembly for disc turbine, Letourneau (March 15, 2002)
U.S. Patent 6,973,792, Method of and apparatus for
a multi-stage boundary layer engine and process cell,
Hicks (December 13, 2005)

7.3 Photos
"Tesla turbine". PBS.

7.4 Boundary layers

Boundary Layer Eect from National Advisory
Committee for Aeronautics, a division of NASA

8 External links
8.1 Kits
Tesla Engine Builders Association, from Je Hayes
in Milwaukee, WI


Books and publications

Tesla, Nikola, Dr. Tesla Talks Of Gas Turbines.

Motor World. September 18, 1911.

Phoenix Turbine Builders Club, from Ken Rieli in

Munising, MI
Metal Experimental Modular Turbine and Hybrid
Tesla Turbine, Glenn Turner in Gloucester, England
Tesla Turbine Kit, from Paul Flynn Dublin, Ireland



80,000 RPM Tesla Turbine YouTube user YTEngineer

Tesla Turbo-generator LIVE! Ken Rieli tests his design.
small model of Teslas bladeless turbine YouTube
user PlasmaStar9
9 stainless steel and polycarbonate turbine operating on 80 psi air and then hooked up to a power meter
Plaster turbine printed in one piece including bearings
Build your own Tesla Turbine A series of 6 construction videos on YouTube.


Tesla turbine sites

Tesla Turbine List.

Phoenix Turbine Builders Club.
Tesla Engine Builders Association (TEBA).
Vanderbilt Tesla Turbine.
Plastic Turbine, Metal Turbine and Hybrid Tesla
Turbine from
Tesla turbine, from Uncle Taz Library.
Tesla Turbine Kit, Turbo-Generator, from OBI
Laser Products.
Tesla Turbine - Features the work of Ken Rieli and
others (
Building a Tesla turbine using hard disk platters.
(story) and the instruction page (resulting how-to).
Rice, Warren, "Tesla Turbomachinery. Proc. IV
International Nikola Tesla Symposium, Sept. 23-25,
Redmond, Stephen, "Building a Disk Turbine.
Germano, Frank D., "Teslas Bladeless Boundary
Disk Turbine and Pump. International Turbine and
Swithenbank, Alan, "The Tesla Boundary Layer
Turbine". September 3, 2005.
Peterson, Gary, Nikola Teslas Disk Turbine Tomorrows Gas Engine". Feed Line No. 7, 21st Century
Exhale fans - Tesla turbine used as a smooth ow
residential fan.


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