Bladeless wind turbine inspired by Tesla

May 07, 2010 by Lisa Zyga report
(Left) The bladeless wind turbine, and (right) the stack of disks which rotate and are connected to a shaft. Image credit: Solar Aero.

( -- A bladeless wind turbine whose only rotating component is a turbine/driveshaft could generate power at a cost comparable to coal-fired power plants, according to its developers at Solar Aero. The New Hampshire-based company recently announced its patent on the Fuller wind turbine, which is an improvement on a patent issued to Nikola Tesla in 1913.

The bladeless wind turbine is completely enclosed in a relatively small compact unit. Instead of using wind-powered blades to rotate a shaft and generator, the Tesla-inspired design consists of an array of closely spaced, parallel, thin metal disks separated by spacers. When air flows in the spaces between the disks, the spacers are arranged in such a way as to provide inward momentum to the air, causing the disks to move. The disks are connected to a shaft by spokes, so that the rotating disks cause the shaft to rotate as well. As explained in the patent held by Howard Fuller, the turbine design “provides in converting to mechanical power.”

“The turbine of the present invention has the advantage that it is efficient over a wider range of rates, as compared with turbines of the prior art, due to the airfoil-shaped spacers,” the patent explains. “This feature makes the present turbine especially useful for generating power from wind, which is inherently random and variable.”

What this efficiency translates to, according to a recent article at EcoGeek, are final costs of about $1.50/watt rated output, which is roughly 2/3 the cost of comparable bladed units. Further, “total operating costs over the lifetime of the unit” are estimated at about $0.12/kWh, which is comparable to current retail electrical rates. The number of disks determines the amount of power that can be produced, and a unit the size of the one pictured should be capable of generating 10kW of power, according to the company.

One major advantage of not having blades is reduced maintenance costs. For instance, the turbines can be mounted on towers or poles, while generator equipment can be located at the tower base, eliminating the need for climbing the tower for routine maintenance. Also, the turbines only need to be mounted high enough to clear nearby obstacles to wind flow. Since there are no external blades that require ground clearance, the tower can likely be shorter than those used for turbines with blades.

Further, the screen-enclosed turbine prevents injuries to birds and bats, avoids the visual pollution of spinning blades, and proper construction can make the turbine nearly transparent to radar microwave emissions, such as those from nearby defense facilities. Due to its reduced maintenance costs and limited infrastructure requirements, the turbine could even be located on urban rooftops.

Besides wind, the turbine’s design also makes it adaptable for geothermal applications, in which a heated fluid is used to drive the turbine. Since the turbine works even with relatively cool fluid, the invention could be particularly useful for situations where the geothermal source does not provide enough heat to produce the “superheated” steam needed to drive a conventional steam engine. iPhone Apps Audio Podcasts / iTunes
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Explore further: ASU grant aims to transform global energy landscape

More information: Wind turbine for generation of electric power: U.S. Patent No. 7,695,242

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4.8 / 5 (5) May 07, 2010
"...provides maximum efficiency in converting wind energy to mechanical power.”

We talking of something that is approaching the Betz limit then? Some numbers justifying that statement would be appreciated.
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2010
It's about time we started to use this turbine design, it's brilliant yet it's been gathering dust since tesla invented it. I've always wanted to try this design for a car supercharger. Unlike a Roots type, this design might not have a tendency to explode because it isn't positive displacement.
4.9 / 5 (15) May 07, 2010
My first question is "Under what conditions exactly could the pictured unit generate 10 kw?" It appears to have an intake area of approx. max. 0.5 meter x 0.5 meter = 0.25 sq meter, or 0.025 sq. meters per kw. A modern bladed HAWT, presumeably operating near the BETZ limit for the typical wind conditions experienced in the field, can extract 1.5 MW (1500 kw) from a circular disc of diameter 120 meters, area about 10,000 sq meters. That's 10,000/1,500 = 6.6 sq. meters per kw. So how does this unit extract energy from wind 300 times more efficiently? I MIGHT grant the Tesla turbine a capability to operate 2 or 3 x more efficiently than a bladed turbine, but 300 times more? Not very likely. There's some fudging going on somewhere here.

This unit - 0.025 sq. meters per kw.
State-of-art HAWT 6.6 sq. meters per kw.

not rated yet May 07, 2010
I'll bet the reporter got the numbers wrong. More likely they were told "the pictured unit can generate 1/10th kw" and misheard. Still, 1/10th kw is a respectable and useful amount for a unit of the size illustrated. I'd install it on my house if the price were right.
1 / 5 (3) May 07, 2010
Oh brother, this isn't really all that new. If you eliminate the excess mass incorporated in the disks, you wind up with a typical blower fan of the type commonly used in climate control systems.

The only significant difference here is they're using it passively, rather than actively.
5 / 5 (4) May 07, 2010
One tenth kW is much more likely. There are numerous reasons I suspect this design.

The input area would have been increased like a funnel to speed up input flow and increase pressure (air density) if they had done any testing on the design. Both of these properties have drastic effects on any wind machine, but are even more relevant to a Tesla turbine.

Most 'improved' Tesla designs that have added fins do not perform as well as the original because it disrupts the laminar air flow and it's resulting adhesion which is the basis for the turbine to operate efficiently in the first place.

The company is a ".org" which is touting all sorts of renewables (including geo, hydrogen, solar, wind) and announcing they just got the patent as well as their 501c3 status. They are now licensing it for production without any further information or pictures of the advertised vertical axis design, magnetic bearings, yaw control or slip-rings. Just sounds a little fishy until more info comes.
3.7 / 5 (3) May 07, 2010
Tesla turbines traditional problem is scaling up. It needs to provide for greater cross-sectional area through the shaft than in the intake, which rapidly limits the size of the units, especially the shaft length.
3 / 5 (3) May 07, 2010
I am wondering if this design is an improvement or just a change to make it patentable. The Tesla design is just flat discs with holes which seems more efficient because the turbine would have less mass than what's shown in the diagram.
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2010
Tesla turbines traditional problem is scaling up. It needs to provide for greater cross-sectional area through the shaft than in the intake, which rapidly limits the size of the units, especially the shaft length.

Which is why pressure becomes more important and this is hard to do in an ambient wind condition.

(I sent you a PM - Todd)
not rated yet May 07, 2010
Conventional wind power is more favorable because of the dirt factor. This unit would have a tendency to break down because of particulates clogging up the works.
1 / 5 (5) May 07, 2010
Maybe we should try mounting one of these on an electric car to generate power for it. Of course you'd want the least air resistance possible. Maybe even have it motorized so it only raises from the roof/trunk to capture air at certain times. Sounds fun! yay!
4.9 / 5 (7) May 07, 2010
Bladeless??? Sure looks like it has blades to me. They just call them "spacers". In fact it just looks like a squashed "squirrel cage" fan.
not rated yet May 07, 2010
Would you mount one on a pole in your backyard?
The first decent wind would blow it over!
It would need a huge collector to provide decent air volume.
That is a photo of an industrial blower mounted on a trailer, Get serious.
not rated yet May 07, 2010
Not to mention the fact that it appears to be mounted on its drive shaft. How does the shaft turn if its bolted to the support frame?
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2010
What about if you joined several together - a bank of say ten all sharing the same central shaft. That would increase the power produced considerably, and yet not have a very big "footprint"...
3 / 5 (2) May 08, 2010
If one Googles Lisa Zyga one finds an astonishing array of the most arrant balderdash imaginable. This persona is obviously a hoaxer. For instance, "Scientists model words as entangled quantum states in our minds." Mr E.A. Poe gave us a number of such pranks in his day.
1 / 5 (1) May 08, 2010
But then again, as the narrator, Cide Hamete Benegeli, of Don Quixote often fondly quoted Avicenna as saying: "The whole world is crazy." For instance, compare Hawking's latest reveries on hostile aliens and time warps puts him in the same league with Newton alchemical ravings that Keynes (quite the madman in his own right, you understand) unearthed.
5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2010
did i miss a science class or are those specially formed "spacers" just vertical blades ???
not rated yet May 08, 2010
Utilizing this technology and refridgeration, turboshafting convection currents in the atmosphere for power generation will be more efficient. BIG KUDOS!
5 / 5 (1) May 08, 2010
Maybe we should try mounting one of these on an electric car to generate power for it. Of course you'd want the least air resistance possible.

You're a troll right? Hard to tell who is just joking and who is a genuine idiot over the internet. Because in your case, forget the car, just use an electric fan to blow air into the generator and you'll umm mint infinite energy.
not rated yet May 08, 2010
the concept is very simple. google "Tesla CD Turbine" and you will see videos of a guy making one out of CDs, a CD case, and some elbow grease. He tries a compressed air version, but finds best results with water. anyone could make one for under $50 if your the DIY kind of guy.
not rated yet May 08, 2010
There's a turbine that has been proven to exceed the Brtz limit by Dr. Ken Visser at Clarkson University. Windtamer
5 / 5 (2) May 09, 2010
The problem with Tesla turbines is efficiency drops dramatically when you put a load on them, for example to turn a generator. That's why we've not seen them commercialized to any great extent, and especially not for automobile engines.

The reason wind turbines are mounted high is not for blade clearance, as the article implies, but for tapping higher wind speeds. Also, there's no advantage for locating the generator on the ground, or else traditional wind turbines would have the same arrangement. Think about all the extra linkages and parts required.
not rated yet May 10, 2010
A Tesla turbine is a steam based turbine. All other applications are mods. This forum has surprised me. Many have cited what I have been working on the last 10 years. Tesla did not produce a staged system to create a battery of turbines for torque stability. I humbly believe that I solved that but I am not a person of great consquence or of institutional learning and therefore may not be able to bring it to fruition. Such is the way of today. The dieseling aspect using hydrocarbons in a first compression stage and or hydrogen/oxygen is perfect for a Tesla turbine being mostly hot steam. Also the design if done correctly would have a perfect Elliot/ wave similar to distribution of pressure as if it was a seashell. Also to comment on the Wind Tamer that it is nice to something in front of us for years. Bose speakers have been using that same design for years on their 901 speakers and it created unobstucted flow. That is a good adaptation for a fan.
not rated yet May 10, 2010
Tesla turbines traditional problem is scaling up. It needs to provide for greater cross-sectional area through the shaft than in the intake, which rapidly limits the size of the units, especially the shaft length.

You're completely correct, however, there's no need to scale when you can attach multiple units to a variable speed output shaft, an idea that wasn't widely disseminated back in Tesla's day.

Rather than building a big one, you can build a bunch of small ones.
not rated yet May 10, 2010
I wonder if this design could be adapted for water power as in wave/tidal energy or river current without dams?
not rated yet May 11, 2010
Same questions - what is the best design for small river (non dammed) or tides.
3 / 5 (2) May 11, 2010
So that's where my wood chipper went.
not rated yet May 12, 2010
The Tesla turbine design is often used in reverse, as a pump. In fact, it is one of the few designs that can pump oil sludge effectively. Here is more info: http://www.animat...apum.htm
not rated yet May 15, 2010
For reasons mentioned by other comments, Tesla turbines are better at pumping, not at generation.