Nikola Tesla's laboratory (Shoreham, NY, USA)

Nikola Tesla's laboratory (Shoreham, NY, USA)

This physicist-inventor and electrical engineer who mainly dealt with electrotechnics was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant figures of the second industrial revolution.

Physics

Keywords

Tesla, Nikola Tesla, Tesla coil, turbine, compact fluorescent tube, alternating current motor, generator, coil, alternating current, electromagnetic induction, wireless, egg of Columbus, telegraph, electric current, magnetic field, network, energy, electricity, electro, inventor, Edison, patent, physics

Related items

Questions

  • When did Nikola Tesla live and work?
  • Where did Nikola Tesla die?
  • The SI unit of what is named after Nikola Tesla?
  • How many of Nikola Tesla's inventions were patented during his lifetime?
  • Which was NOT Nikola Tesla's main field of interest?
  • Who was Nikola Tesla's biggest rival?
  • What was the popular term for the rivalry between Edison and Tesla?
  • Which of the following devices was NOT found in Nikola Tesla's laboratory?
  • Which of the following devices was NOT found in Nikola Tesla's laboratory?
  • What is the abbreviation of 'direct current'?
  • Who was Nikola Tesla's employer in the United States?
  • What kind of device did Nikola Tesla control by using radio technology?
  • Which theory or law did Nikola Tesla consider logically flawed?
  • Is it true that Nikola Tesla invented the first telephone repeater (i.e. the first loudspeaker)?
  • Which of these was Nikola Tesla's most important research field in Colorado Springs?
  • Is it true that the Wardenclyffe Tower was built as a lighthouse?
  • Which area was NOT of Nikola Tesla's interest?
  • Which area or device was NOT of Nikola Tesla's interest?
  • According to legend, on his deathbed, which of his inventions did Nikola Tesla consider the most important?
  • Who was a contemporary of Nikola Tesla?
  • Who was NOT a contemporary of Nikola Tesla?

Scenes

Wardenclyffe

  • Laboratory
  • Tesla tower

Laboratory and tower

Nikola Tesla, who arrived in the US in 1884, worked at a number of laboratories in Pittsburgh, PA; New York City, NY; Orange, NJ; and Colorado Springs, CO and finally, in Warderclyffe, NY, today known as Shoreham.

In 1901, Tesla bought a parcel of land in Long Island from James Warden. Afterwards, the estate was still referred to as Wardenclyffe, after the previous owner.

Tesla’s plan was to create a wireless telegraph station here. He contracted the prominent architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White to design his laboratory and the transmission tower.

Later he wanted to modify the buildings but could not find any investors, because J. P. Morgan, who previously financed his project, did not support the changes. As a result, Tesla abandoned the project in 1906 and the transmission tower never became functional.

After the outbreak of World War I, even Tesla’s European supporters turned their backs on him. In 1917, the tower was dismantled and sold for scrap. The site itself was also sold.

The laboratory

  • Nikola Tesla
  • X-ray device
  • Tesla coils
  • turbine
  • alternating current (AC) motor
  • Egg of Columbus
  • radio-controlled boat

Structure and operation

The laboratory building housed the generator, which produced electricity. It was connected to the transmission tower by a cable.

The Wardenclyffe Tower (or Tesla Tower) was 57 m (187 ft) tall above ground and 37 m (121 ft) deep below ground level. The cupola was 21 m (69 ft) in diameter.

Tesla believed that the tower would have been a solution to wireless electrical energy transmission. He thought air and earth were suitable as transfer media. He would have used the underground part of the tower to transfer electrical energy through the ground, thinking that this way the electrical energy could be transmitted with nearly no loss at all.

His long-term plans included a global wireless network that would have transferred electricity to any device virtually anywhere.

Inventions

Inventions

Tesla coils (Colorado Springs, CO)

Around 1891 Tesla invented the so-called Tesla coil that contains at least two air-core coils. It could produce high voltages at high frequencies.

This new device was innovative because it used electrical resonance with the help of the air-core coils. This system differs from the transformer as both the primary and the secondary circuit are in resonance with the operating frequency. Later, his invention became an essential component of numerous devices.

Tesla coils produce spectacular phenomena in the form of high-voltage corona discharge which also depend on the top load attached to the secondary coil.

Alternating current induction motor

The AC induction motor is one of Tesla’s most famous and most important inventions. He built the prototype in 1883, while working in France. He patented his invention, a motor driven by a rotating magnetic field, in the US in 1888.

Alternating current is electrical current with periodically changing direction and intensity.

Tesla’s AC induction motor contains two fundamental parts: a stator (stationary part) and a rotor (moving part).

The stator consists of several coils that are fed by an alternating current. The rotor can be a simple metal cylinder, but it usually also contains a coil. The phases of the motor’s operation are the following:

1. The alternating current flowing in the coils of the stator generates a rotating magnetic field around these coils.

2. This rotating magnetic field induces electric current in the coil of the rotor.

3. The induced electric current generates another magnetic field around the coil of the rotor.

4. Due to the magnetic field generated around the coil of the rotor, the north pole of the rotor tries to turn towards the south pole of the magnetic field of the stator. However, since the rotating magnetic field keeps changing around the coils of the stator, the two poles never align, and the rotor revolves constantly.

A rotating magnetic field is generated only when the coils of the stator do not work at the same time but at different phases. If polyphase power is used to drive the motor, the coils of the stator must be fed with different phases of current for a rotating magnetic field to be generated.

When the motor is driven by single-phase power, the external coils cannot operate in the same phase, because no magnetic field would be produced. The phase difference of the coils’ power supply is secured by capacitors or, today, by electronics. The motor will not start unless there is some phase difference, but if we help the motor start, it will rotate without the need of phase difference.

Nikola Tesla and his former employer, Thomas Edison engaged in the so-called War of Currents. Tesla was an advocate of the alternating current while Edison was a strong supporter of the direct current.

Not only his contemporary demonstrations, but also history has proven Tesla right. Today, numerous devices work on the same principle as his AC motor.

Radio-controlled boat

The birth of the theory of radio and the invention of the device itself paved the way for the development of other areas of wireless transmission.

The predecessor of today’s remote control was built by Tesla. He controlled a boat with a remote control he had patented in 1898 that used radio waves.

Light tubes

Despite the myth surrounding the light tube, it was not Tesla who actually invented it. However, in the 1890s he worked with light tubes that were powered by high-frequency power sources.

This is how he described the reception of his light tubes: "When my tubes were first publicly exhibited, they were viewed with amazement impossible to describe."

Egg of Columbus

In 1893 Nikola Tesla unveiled his invention, the so-called Egg of Columbus. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus made an egg stand on its end by tapping it on the table thereby causing great amusement among the audience, hence the name.

The purpose of Tesla’s device was to demonstrate the rotating magnetic field and the induction motor.

The basis of the device was an iron ring (stator - stationary part) which was linked to four coils (electromagnets). The copper egg was spinning on a wooden platform. An alternating current source was responsible for creating the appropriate magnetic field.

Turbine

Turbine

The turbine Nikola Tesla patented in 1913 was a very simple, but highly effective device. The bladeless turbine consisted of parallel disks and its operation was based on centripetal flow.

It also worked with gas and fluid. The flow of gas or fluid turned the shaft. The outlet was located at the bottom of the turbine. By changing the direction of the rotary motion, it could also be operated as a pump.

Nikola Tesla said the following of his invention: "In my invention practically the whole surface is active. In the bucket turbine the action does not even extend all the way around; you must have a series of jets. But in my turbine you have the gas traveling all the way around in free spirals—always seeking the path of least resistance—and expending its full energy."

Even though the turbine was relatively cheap to construct and highly effective, it never became widespread.

Legend has it that on his deathbed, Tesla described the turbine as his most important invention. Nevertheless, the device has become as good as forgotten.

Nikola Tesla

Walk

  • Nikola Tesla
  • spiral coil
  • top load
  • X-ray device
  • Tesla coils
  • turbine
  • alternating current (AC) motor
  • Egg of Columbus
  • generator
  • lathe
  • fuel tank
  • radio-controlled boat

Animation

  • Nikola Tesla
  • X-ray device
  • Tesla coils
  • turbine
  • alternating current (AC) motor
  • Egg of Columbus
  • radio-controlled boat

Narration

One of the most brilliant figures in the second industrial revolution, Nikola Tesla became one of the greatest inventors of all time with 146 patents to his name.

The Serbian-American inventor was born in 1856 in Smiljan, in the former Austrian Empire. He was very gifted even as a teenager and made good use of his skills later as an engineer and inventor.

After Graz, Prague and Budapest, he moved to Paris in 1882, where he worked for the Continental Edison Company. He traveled all over Europe as a service engineer before moving to the US in 1884 to work with Thomas Edison.

He spent his best years as an inventor there. He had numerous ideas and inventions that were far ahead of their time and many of which are still present in some form in devices today. Tesla, after whom the SI unit of magnetic flux density is named, was harshly critical of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

He died at the age of 86 in a New York City hotel room.

“Man, however, is not an ordinary mass, consisting of spinning atoms and molecules, and containing merely heat-energy. He is a mass possessed of certain higher qualities by reason of the creative principle of life with which he is endowed.”

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