Nikola Tesla's creative life spanned two scientific paradigms - that of the 19th century which modeled the universe as filled with an energetic aether and that of the 20th century which has the universe empty with bits of matter in random motion.
His engineering accomplishments, particularly the AC generator, transformer and motor, translated easily from the older to the newer scientific worldview.
Motors invented in the 1880's ran just as well in the 1920's even though the science upon which they were based was considered wrong by that time.
The shift in scientific paradigms was, and still is, a hindrance to understanding Tesla's later work which was based on advanced principles of physics.
This is particularly true in relation to his work in the 1890's on a new type of electrical generator that would, he claimed, extract energy directly from the "ambient medium."
It also applies to his wireless power transmission method which rested on the concept of the earth being filled with an incompressible material that allowed the transfer of force to any place on the globe.
The following papers are an effort to translate from the language and concepts of 19th century science into today's terminology Tesla's accomplishments in power generation and transmission.
Nikola Tesla's Later Energy Generation Designs was an invited paper for the 26th Intersociety Energy Conversion Engineering Conference sponsored by the American Nuclear Society in Boston during August 1991.
My co-worker at the time and fellow presenter Moray King was kind enough to suggest my name for the conference.
The paper aims at documenting: that Nikola Tesla claimed to have built an electrical power generator that would not consume fuel, where in his writings the description of such a device is found, what were the devices that he was likely referring to in his discussion of a fuelless generator, the theory of how a fuelless generator could be possible, and a suggestion as to how Tesla's new device might have operated.
The paper moves from verifiable historical fact, the claims for such a generator in a letter hand written by Tesla, to speculation about the operating principles of the inventions.
At the time of writing the paper, I felt very certain about the historical material, but not really convinced about the engineering explanation.
This last point was reconsidered with greater satisfaction in the 1993 IECEC paper.
The Wireless Power Transmission System of Nikola Tesla was written in 1992 as part of an investigation into his method of underwater communication.
Its starting point is an acceptance of Tesla's assertion that his wireless system worked without electromagnetic radiation and transmitted through the earth.
Modern analysis of his wireless method, on the other hand, starts with the incorrect assumption that he was using the radio broadcast methods of today and, then, goes on to either disprove Tesla's claims or try find some way of making Tesla's description of his transmission method fit today's technology.
Variations on the earth/ionospheric cavity oscillation theory have been popular in both of these efforts.
I have tried to show, however, that Tesla's work with electrostatics points to his use of displacement currents for through-the-earth transmission.
Such a method is shown to be historically consistent with Tesla's claims and physically possible.
Tesla's Wireless Power Transmitter and the Tunguska Explosion of 1908 first appeared in a different form as a magazine article in 1990.
The revised version came out in 1992. It is an article I hesitated to write for a number of years.
A number of references to the use of his wireless power transmission technology as a directed energy weapon system appear in Tesla's writings.
The more I looked into it, the more I found that his statements about a weapons application and his financial circumstances pointed to the likelihood of his having made a test firing of his power transmitter as a directed energy weapon.
It is clear that when Tesla's wireless method does come into use, a great deal of consideration will have to be given to its applications.
Nikola Tesla's "Free Energy" Documents reproduces the inventor's 1902 letter to Robert Underwood Johnson about Tesla's new energy generator that would not consume fuel.
This letter was found in the Tesla Collection at Columbia University Library when I was attending the IEEE Tesla Symposium in New York in January 1976.
With image processing software it has been possible to make clear copies from the reproductions.
This letter will come to be considered as important in the history of electrical science as the papers of Franklin,
Faraday and Maxwell.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics and Tesla's Fuelless Generator was prepared, in a somewhat different form, for the 28th (1993) IECEC sponsored by the American Chemical Society.
It takes up Tesla's argument for a fuelless electric power generator that does not violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Though the device appears to supply power without fuel, it is not a perpetual motion machine.
Tesla's explanation and a modern analysis is given of the device's operation.
This paper remedies, hopefully, the shortcoming of the 1991 IECEC paper about the engineering aspects of the new generator.
It also provides a basis for predictive calculations and testing of this explanation of Tesla's fuelless generator.
A Special Case of Voltage Gain is a technical note showing that the equation for voltage gain will have to be modified for a special coil that may be related to Tesla's fuelless energy generator design.
A regular coil and one of Tesla's design are measured and compared. Measurements show that the Tesla design is over 900% better in voltage gain than predicted by calculation.
It is my hope that these papers give a new view of Nikola Tesla's work in power generation and transmission. It has been an awe inspiring experience to see these two aspects of his work as I believe he saw them.
However, these papers barely outline the new areas of electrical inquiry that Nikola Tesla explored a hundred years ago.
It will be for the next century to complete the theories, build the machinery and create a new era of human adventure.
Special thanks go to Chris Bird who introduced me to the works of Nikola Tesla and who co-authored with me Nikola Tesla: Great Scientist, Forgotten Genius (New Age, Feb. 1977) and to John Ratzlaff who kindly shared material from his Tesla collection.
November 9, 1994
American Fork, Utah
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Nikola Tesla's Later Energy Generation Designs
Nikola Tesla's Later Energy Generation Designs (mirror)
The Wireless Power Transmission System of Nikola Tesla
Underwater Communication System of Nikola Tesla)
Tesla's Wireless Power Transmitter and the Tunguska Explosion
Nikola Tesla's "Free Energy" Documents
The Second Law Thermodynamics and Tesla's Fuelless Generator
A Special Case Of Voltage Gain
Oliver Nichelson studied the history of science at Kalamazoo College, B.A. '66, and historical method at Harvard University, M.Div. '69. He began researching the works of Nikola Tesla in 1975 and, with Christopher Bird, published his first article on the inventor in 1977.
He can be contacted at:
333 North 760 East, Am. Fork, Utah 84003