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Top 10 Nikola Tesla Inventions

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Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) is without a doubt one of the greatest inventors of the past century. Tesla has left a lasting mark on electrical engineering. Our electricity grid, which is based on alternating current, is largely due to him. This genius and eccentric scholar had no fewer than 300 patents to his name. Tesla was way ahead of its time. Some of his ideas were theoretically correct, but could not be realized practically in his day. Below is a list of 10 amazing Tesla inventions.

Radio

first radio
Cardiff Council Flat Holm Project/wikimediacommons

Although Italian Marconi was granted the patent for the invention of wireless telegraphy (the precursor to radio broadcasting), Tesla was well on his way to go down in history as the inventor of radio. By 1895 he was so far advanced in developing a transmission system that he was about to test a powerful radio signal that could be received 50 miles away. Unfortunately, he had to postpone this test because his laboratory was destroyed by a fire. Marconi was therefore too quick for him. In 1896, the Italian acquired the patent for wireless telegraphy instead of Tesla.

The Hydroelectric Power Plant of Niagara Falls

Adams Power Plant
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NY,32-NIAF,3-15

The Adams Power Plant at Niagara Falls was the world’s first large-scale water-powered power plant. The committee leading the works on the plant initially wanted to use DC generators designed by Thomas Edison. However, Nikola Tesla’s alternating current generators proved to offer more benefits. In 1896 the huge hydroelectric power station was completed. The AC power plant produced enough electrical energy for the city of Buffalo from the start. Afterwards, 10 more generators were added to supply New York with power.

The induction motor

induction motor
Ctac/wikimediacommons

This Tesla invention has had a huge impact on electrical engineering. The induction motor is powered by alternating current. The electrical energy is converted into a rotating movement of the rotor part of the motor. Tesla and Ferrari worked simultaneously but independently on the design of the first AC motor. Tesla was the first to apply for the patent and acquired it in 1888. Alternating current motors are now found in a wide variety of applications, including in household appliances such as vacuum cleaners and fans.

The neon light

neon

No, Tesla did not invent the first gas discharge lamp . That honor belongs to Heinrich Geissler. However, Tesla thought about practical applications of the gas discharge lamp. He developed a fluorescent powder with which he coated the inside of the gas discharge lamp so that it emitted visible light. He also came up with the idea of ​​bending gas discharge lamps filled with neon in the shape of letters. This is how the first neon sign was born.

X-rays and shadowgraphs

shadowgraphs

The first X-ray was taken by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1896. Tesla was probably aware of the existence of X-rays before Röntgen’s discovery, but the burning down of his laboratory caused much delay in his research. Tesla perfected Röntgen’s invention. Using X-rays, he was able to create so-called ‘shadowgraphs’, which yielded images much brighter than Röntgen’s.

The Teslaturbine

Teslaturbine

Tesla-Turbine-Small

Tesla was not only concerned with electrical applications. In its day, the internal combustion engine with pistons gradually became the norm in the emerging automotive industry. However, Tesla designed a pistonless combustion engine, the so-called Tesla turbine. That turbine consisted of discs that were dragged along by the gas or liquid flowing past it. The turbine delivered an efficiency of 60%, much better than the efficiency of the then combustion engines with pistons. Unfortunately, his design did not find application in the automotive industry.

The Tesla Coil

teslacoil 2

teslacoil

One of the inventions that brought Tesla fame is undoubtedly the Tesla coil. It basically consists of two coils, a primary coil with few turns and a secondary coil with a large number of turns. An alternating current flowing through the primary coil generates a very high alternating voltage in the secondary coil. This voltage is so high that it can even generate artificial lightning and sparks. Tesla was interested in this principle because he wanted to transport electrical energy wirelessly.

Tesla’s Electricity Transmitter

Tesla's Electricity Transmitter
Wellcome Collection gallery

In his laboratory, Tesla built enormous transformers with which he generated voltages of millions of volts and created lightning bolts of almost 10 meters in length. The aim of these experiments was to transmit electricity wirelessly, without the use of cables. On Long Island he built a pilot installation with a tower that had to ‘broadcast’ electricity, the ‘Wardenclyffe Tower’. His investors, however, saw no point in his idea and the project never got off the ground. The tower was never completed due to lack of money. The idea of ​​wireless power is currently in the spotlight again.

Remote control

tesla remote control

He proved again in 1898 that Tesla was a pioneer in the field of radio waves. At an exhibition in Madison Square Garden, New York, Tesla demonstrated a boat that was controlled remotely using radio waves. This was probably the first application of a wireless remote control, the distant predecessor of the remote control we use for our television and our garage door. The boat itself can also be considered one of the first robots, as it could be steered without anyone having to physically touch it.

The applications of alternating current

alternating current

Among all his other inventions and designs, Nikola Tesla’s greatest credit is his contribution to the applications of alternating current. In the early days of electricity, direct current was mainly used. It was especially Thomas Edison, that other world famous inventor, who was a big proponent of the use of direct current and direct voltage. Tesla, who initially worked for Edison, quickly realized that alternating current offered great advantages over direct current. After all, AC voltage can be transformed to a higher or lower voltage and generated relatively easily. Moreover, alternating voltage can be converted into direct voltage without too much energy loss.
Edison and Tesla fundamentally disagreed on the use of alternating current in power grids. That’s why it came to a rift between Edison and Tesla. Tesla sold most of its patents to Westinghouse, who successfully applied Tesla’s AC designs to power grids across the United States.

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