Boundary-Layer Turbine

The Boundary-layer Turbine refers specifically to Nikola Tesla's invention known as the “Tesla Turbine,” as well as the “Bladeless Turbine” and “Disc Turbine.” This page has been titled “Boundary-layer Turbine” in order to emphasize what the invention is, rather than who invented it; and also, to allow for improvements upon the original design.

E-mails from Brian

From #214
June 25 2021 1:07AM

The best option for power generation other than the Di Pietro engine is the Tesla Turbine. Its biggest hurdle to pass is the efficiency related to instant torque conversion. There are several different ways to construct this type of turbine, but for the reasons I'd like to use it, if the efficiency and/or fuel source (water/steam) for the Di Pietro engine is not comparable to the air pressure efficiency, is for water pressure. Specifically in a dam scenario. They run well with air pressure, and in a two stage setup, steam is highly efficient, but water's viscosity is superior for this type of application, especially when the pressure is significant. The Tesla Turbine's biggest inefficiency conundrum is that in order to achieve maximum efficiency, the turbine must spin at a very high RPM. 30,000 in most cases. This has to do with a phenomenon called "the boundary level." The actual driving force of the turbine changes the higher the RPM. Until maximum efficiency is reached at roughly 30,000 RPM, the efficiency is not great. Usable and applicable for power generation, but in an application like a vehicle, the torque specs do not really compare, especially in an air pressure system. The molecular structure of air is much less dense than water, obviously. A more controlled and direct application is superior for air pressure, as is the case with Di Pietro engines. However, water, when used in the Tesla Turbine system is a superior method, as far as I know right now. This was going to be a primary discussion topic with Di Pietro, as we discussed some months back. As it stands now though, if I was unable to make that discussion a reality, a Tesla Turbine would be used as a primary power generation device for harnessing high pressure water. I've discussed with you the application of different variants for water power generation, but this is what I would use if I had access to a large, deep reservoir that would supply high pressure. This is not the best turbine system for low head or low flow systems, even if a reservoir was created by a dam. This is essentially the best application for the pyramid area in Oklahoma, if I'm able to build a lake the way I want. I'm putting these caveats onto this topic because it is indeed a very nuanced and specific application. The Tesla Turbine is a very intriguing concept, but creating the right environment for the maximum efficiency to make the system worth the effort, is complex. Nevertheless, it's one of those things that helps understand a broader range of applications for everything else you're trying to learn about right now. Plus, it's very easy to make. Creating one with superior balance, good to great bearings, and discs that can handle the centrifugal force to the point of achieving 99+% efficiency is difficult and intricate. However, making one to study the phenomenon and do interesting and fun research is very easy and cheap.

I say this because making a Di Pietro engine will be difficult at best, at least in the case of the valve chamber. It seems like an intricate part all on its own, and if I had to make a guess, it's probably what gives the most headache to make. Everything else seems fairly straightforward to a CNC application, but the tolerances of the valve chamber do seem REEE! inducing. It's something to consider is all I'm saying. I don't want you to get yourself into a position where you see yourself or your projects as failures. The Di Pietro engine is legit, very much so. Taking on the task of making one as your first real mechanical engineer project has the potential to create severe doubt in your ability, and I don't want you to put yourself in a position of doubt this early on. There's many projects that are applicable to the equilibrium ideology we've discussed. You're taking on the two most difficult right off the bat. Kudos to you for having the courage to do so. It's admirable and extremely rare. If... and I stress if, you want to take on a technical application that has a little bit less chance of failure, I suggest the Tesla Turbine. Just so you know, it was considered Tesla's most favorite invention. Of all the things he made, his favorite was, by far and away, his turbine. Interestingly enough, it's also one of the least known of, but that's not really too strange considering the love affair demons and niggers have with electricity. I had these thoughts because of the angst you've gone through in class, which is another reason why you shouldn't be nervous about telling me your personal matters. Sometimes I can help in ways you never even considered. Just saying, there are options. Many different applications for many different scenarios, and hopefully I'll be able to get them all to you at some point. Either way, and whatever you decide to make, don't give up. If you want to research the turbine, there's lots of videos on YouTube about it. I try to stay up to speed with iEnergySupply. There's a guy on there that's doing some very interesting research using a two stage turbine-pump device. It's interesting to me because he's using a 3:1 ratio pump to turbine setup using steam as his fuel supply. This ratio creates a vacuum within the system that lowers the boiling temperature within the reservoir. It's quite genius if you're able to understand the intricacies of using force to create vacuum within the same system. In theory... the ability should get more efficient, the more power it generates. Treading very close to over unity, but again, the tolerances need to be better than precise. We're talking to the ten thousandths here at least, otherwise balance becomes a serious issue, especially when we're talking 30,000-100,000 RPMs. The guy isn't a machinist, so he farms out the work, but it's an interesting idea. I'll link a video of his setup, but fair warning, he's not a great public speaker.

From #243
July 25 2021 5:34PM

I'm still not convinced that the Di Pietro engine idea is well suited for hydro energy production, so I'm still thinking the Tesla turbine is the best bet for converting hydro power to air pressure, especially on a smaller scale lake/dam generation unit. Again... IF... there's a destination during this mission where monetary woes fade, I'd like to try that alloy in the blades of a Tesla turbine. From what I understand about the system, its bane is that the wafers of the turbine warp and distort under the strain of the extremely high RPM loads. Remember, to achieve maximum efficiency, the Tesla turbine has to function in the tens of thousands (of RPMS). Mild steel and aluminum will not work, and even if they did, they won't last much further beyond the testing stage. Apparently Tesla halted research due to elementary materials available to him in his era. I'm guessing, and it is just a guess at this point, albeit an educated one, this low carbon ferrochrome steel alloy might be the alloy necessary for making the Tesla turbine useful, and durable. Here's the video where I saw the manufacturing process of the hammerheads in his hammer mill...

From #256
August 11 2021 1:27AM

Mechanical rotational force is what creates air pressure. Specifically, in the way in which I envision a proper off grid system, an ensemble of inputs will create that mechanical rotation. Firstly, using a Tesla turbine from hydro power. Water is essential to survival. Building a dam for an above ground reservoir that sits elevated from the crops the reservoir will water, will create the pressure that spins the turbine. The turbine will be powering an air vane pump, very similar to one of these industrial models...

This is the exact same technology that runs air tools like die grinders, but instead of a pump in that application, it would behave as an engine. The biggest advantage to a rotary vane pump over a piston pump is that the inlet air doesn't require a complex filter system to prevent damage to the piston chamber. "Electricity creating the air pressure" is an admission of not understanding how mechanical energy can be transferred into rotational force.

From #273
September 5 2021 1:22PM

I would think that making a complete engine in 3D print form, then copying it in entirety is the best course of action given the variance of parts sizes. If you had a complete blueprint, that's a different story, but since you're kind of piece mailing it from several different sources, that's my advice. You know what you have, and you know your capabilities, though, so the best course of action is yours to make.

Be careful with the 3D printed Tesla turbine. In fact, be careful with any material Tesla turbine that's not a very strong and sturdy material. The blades warp very easily under high RPM stresses. If you're planning on making one out of resin or plastic, be prepared for catastrophic failure. At least if you're going to push the maximum RPM capability.

From #644
September 25 2022 1:26AM

The other side of the branching off from air vane systems, which only a small handful of people have tried to find industrial usage for, are "boundary layer" air pressure systems. The most notable being Nikola Tesla, and his "Tesla turbine." These systems are essentially free flowing. One could simply blow into an intake and there would be no resistance on the exhaust. However, when high volume air (or other substances like gases and water) is pressurized into the intake, the molecules bunch up on the surface. This creates a friction point where molecules bind up on the surface, creating what's known as a "boundary layer," thusly, giving the necessary damming effect to produce mechanical rotational force. This type of application is useful for excessively high RPM, that can then be used in a gearbox/transmission to power anything. Air pressure is effective for a Tesla turbine, but there are more efficient strategies, like an air vane or rotary vane (Di Pietro) engine.

External Resources

Tesla's Patent An archived copy of the above URL. Same patent, different website.

U.S. Patent 1,061,206 -- May 6, 1913. Written by Tesla.

Videos “Self Sustaining Two Stage Tesla Turbine!” “Making Chrome-Iron Hammers For Our Hammer Mills” Integza's 3D-Printed Tesla Turbine series.

Other Links

“Our Future Motive Power,” by Nikola Tesla, Everyday Science and Mechanics, December 1931.

“The Tesla Turbine.” from Popular Mechanics Magazine, December 1911.

The Tesla Disc Turbine, by WMJ Cairns. Overview of the book.

Article with same title as the book. The Tesla Boundary Layer Turbine.

Patent for a modern Boundary Layer Turbine. Boundary Layer Turbine by NuEnergy Technologies

An abstract on the Tesla Turbine.

Book, Boundary-layer breakthrough: The Bladeless Tesla Turbine, Volume II by Jeffrey A. Hayes.

-The description of the book:

“Most people remember Nikola Tesla for his work and revelations in the field of electrical energy and the invention of radio. However, Tesla had a life long interest in developing a flying machine. Tesla had envisioned himself as the first man that would fly. He had planned to build an aircraft that would operate on electric motors. However, the first men who successfully flew an aircraft used the reciprocating internal combustion engine. Though successful in achieving night, aircraft using these engines were dangerous and unpredictable, due to the engine's lack of adequate power. Tesla turned his attention to revamping the internal combustion engine so as to make flying safe for all and minimize its environmental impact. Documented in this text is the result of Tesla's endeavors and the resulting marvel of machines called the Bladeless Boundary-Layer Turbine.

Although Tesla's dream for his engines application in aircraft was not realized in his lifetime, if allowed to be used in aircraft today, it would provide a quiet, safe, simple and efficient alternative to our supposedly advanced bladed turbine aircraft engines. It has been estimated that an increase in fuel efficiency of a factor of three could be realized in aircraft and thus substantially reduce pollution. Not only this, the Bladeless Tesla Turbine Engine can turn at much higher speeds with total safety. If a conventional bladed turbine engine goes critical or fails, watch out, you have exploding pans slicing through hydraulic lines, control surfaces and maybe even you. With the Bladeless Tesla Turbine this is not a danger because it will not explode. If it does go critical, as has been documented in tests at 85,000 rpm, the failed component will not explode but implode into tiny pieces which are ejected through the exhaust while the undamaged components continue to provide thrust to keep you airborne. We can only speculate on the human suffering that could and should be averted.

The application of this amazing engine was not to be limited to aircraft. Tesla was setting up plans to replace what he considered the wasteful, polluting, inefficient and complicated reciprocating engine in all its applications, including the automobile. Tesla's small but powerful engine has only one moving pan and is 95% efficient, which means tremendous mileage. It runs vibration free and doesn't even require a muffler. Not only is this engine 95% efficient, as compared to 25% efficiency or less of the conventional gas engine, it can run efficiently on any fuel from sawdust to hydrogen with no wear on the internal engine components. This engine's speed-torque characteristic allows full torque at the bottom of the speed range eliminating the conventional shifting gear transmission. This provides additional economy as the expensive, complicated and wear prone transmission is eliminated.

Unlike most people of the time, Tesla was very concerned about the long range environmental damage the reciprocating engines would create. He stressed over and over how we must take the long range view and not step out of harmony with our life support systems. Today the widening concern for Spaceship Earth and the renewal of an old ethic “We don't inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” is now slowly beginning to awaken people to the concerns of Tesla.

Although the existence of the automobile on city streets dates back to the first years of the century, its role as a contributor to air contamination did not receive wide acceptance among scientists until the 60's. Factual evidence that urban area smog was chemically related to automobile emissions had been produced and acknowledge by scientific groups in the 1950's. Despite vehement disagreement which ensued between government and the automotive industry on this volatile issue, research and development programs were initiated by both groups in an effort to identify the reciprocating internal combustion engine's sources of pollution and determine what corrective action might be taken. Obviously Tesla's ounce of prevention was not heeded, leaving us with well over the pound required for a cure with nearly half of all air pollution caused by the reciprocating internal combustion engine.

The Boundary Layer Turbine is not only an engine that is hard to comprehend by our currently imposed standards, but can also be used as a pump with slight modification. And like its cousin the engine, it has Herculean power. Unlike conventional pumps that are easily damaged by contaminants, the Bladeless Tesla Pump can handle particles and corrosives in stride as well as gases with no cavitation effect that destroys, in short order, conventional type pumps.

These pumps and engines, though unknown to most, are available for commercial sale. If large scale commercial production was implemented, these engines and pumps would be extremely affordable due to their simplicity of manufacture, longevity, almost total lack of maintenance and the added bonus that they require no crank case oil.

Almost a quarter of the air pollution today comes from the coal being burned to generate electricity. Fuel consumption, resulting in air pollution and acid rain, could be significantly reduced (by a factor of twenty!) simply by replacing the conventional bladed steam turbines currently used by utilities with the Bladeless Tesla Steam Turbine. This also would have the added bonus of drastically reducing maintenance. But the real solution lies in using low temperature wet steam occurring naturally from the ground in the form of geothermal energy. This energy would destroy a conventional bladed steam turbine, unless expensive steam drying is employed. However, the Bladeless Tesla Steam Turbine requires no drying and can be connected directly to the geothermal source. It has been estimated that the geothermal potential in just Southern California alone, could power the entire North American Continent with NO POLLUTION! Large oil companies have comprehended the potential of geothermal energy and have purchased many of these large tracks of prime geothermal land.

Due to the revolutionary concepts embodied in this engine, we can easily end the so called energy crisis and dramatically reduce pollution. Even the vested energy interests are beginning to understand that now is the time for change, realizing their future health and wealth is directly linked to that of the environment. You can't hide or buy your way out of a devastated planet. There must also be a move forward for the many misinformed environmentalists who see our future as one of regression from technology instead of its proper usage.

Tesla from his 1919 autobiography, My Inventions:

“My alternating system of power transmission came at a psychological moment, as a long-sought answer to pressing industrial questions, and although considerable resistance had to be overcome and opposing interests reconciled, as usual, the commercial introduction could not be long delayed. Now, compare this situation with that confronting my turbine, for example. One should think that so simple and beautiful an invention, possessing many features of an ideal motor, should be adopted at once and, undoubtedly, it would under similar conditions. But the prospective effect of the rotating field was not to render worthless existing machinery; on the contrary, it was to give it additional value. The system lent itself to new enterprise as well as to improvement of the old. My turbine is an advance of a character entirely different. It is a radical departure in the sense that its success would mean the abandonment of the antiquated types of prime movers on which billions of dollars have been spent. Under such circumstances the progress must needs be slow and perhaps the greatest impediment is encountered in the prejudicial opinions created in the minds of experts by organized opposition.”

H.G. Wells once said that future history will be a race between education and catastrophe. This book is dedicated to the race for education.”