The Bladeless Turbine: 21st Century Technology from the 1900s

Energy generatorsModern machinery comes in different shapes and sizes, fulfilling vastly different applications. But they often feature common components inside them. One good example is a centrifugal water pump. In order to transport/circulate water or other fluids, it requires a bladed mechanism known as an impeller. This accelerates the flow of the liquid.

Energy is created by this process. The same thing goes with turbines, like in high-tech windmills. Energy is produced by the bladed mechanism being turned by a force, either water, air, or something else. But have you heard of a bladeless mechanism that’s purportedly more efficient?

Bladeless Technological Wonders

You might think it’s impossible for a bladeless turbine to be turned. After all, there are no blades to be pushed on to make the mechanism work. This is what Nikola Tesla proved wrong, 107 years ago. Improving on a previous design from 1832, Tesla came up with a combustion engine design that features bladeless turbines in 1909. His design demonstrates about 60% fuel efficiency, compared to modern engines which can only show 27-30% efficiency on average.

The bladeless turbine’s design might be difficult for some to comprehend. One reason is that it features extremely smooth discs inside a sealed chamber. When fluid is pumped into the chamber, some may think it lacks the energy to make the discs spin — after all, there are no blades to be pushed on. But the bladeless turbine relies on viscosity and adhesion, which are two major liquid properties.

Adhesion is what its name implies. As liquids flow, their molecules adhere to the surface they’re travelling across. This adhesion is stronger when the surface is round; hence, the discs. In a bladeless turbine design, the liquid that flows over the discs ‘stick’ on their surfaces, causing them to spin. The discs then turn a shaft, which produces mechanical energy. Viscosity, on the other hand, is a liquid’s resistance to flow. That said, the more viscous a liquid is, the better for a bladeless turbine.

The bladeless turbine as perfected by Tesla is a marvel of both science and engineering. Sadly, various reasons still keep it from being used by more people, much of which stems from the politics stretching back to Tesla’s time.