A Qualitative Analysis of the Tesla Turbomachine
Glenn A. Barlis
The Tesla Turbine is a form of centrifugal turbomachine that uses fluid viscous shear to effect energy transfer between the fluid and parallel rotor disks instead of impulse and reaction transfer between fluid and blades as in the typical turbomachine.
This paper provides a qualitative analysis of the Tesla turbomachine by comparing it to the traditional centrifugal compressor/turbine. Contrary to the impression of some, the operating mechanism of the Tesla turbomachine is well understood and documented in the literature. The fact that there are few commercial implementations of the machine and no well defined design rules published has led to claims of extraordinary capability of the machine or suspicion of conspiracy of technology suppression. The more mundane explanation for the lack of commercial implementation of the Tesla machine is that there are strong commercial reasons for traditional manufacturers of turbomachines to continue to use a well defined design methodology. The Tesla machine offers no compelling advantage for established manufacturers to switch designs for the majority of applications. The bladed turbomachine design has been refined to the point where compressor efficiencies of more than 90% are now possible at relatively low cost with modern materials and manufacturing techniques.
The Tesla turbomachine does offer some interesting possibilities for the individual experimenter wishing to build a machine. The simplicity of the design lends itself to construction with available tools and the machine can run with a wide variety of fluids. This paper is written with the individual builder in mind. It provides the designer an outline of the technical factors to be considered in designing and building a Tesla turbomachine. It also offers an explanation of the theory behind the design factors.