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I've heard stories about the Tesla turbine that cite a figure of 95% efficiency, and have been unsuccessful in obtaining any information regarding this claim.  I was wondering if you could help in some way.  In addition, why haven't these devices been utilized in the mainstream.  Its hard to believe that it wouldn't have peeked its head out somewhere in the commercial realm.

I'm fairly certain the 95% figure you heard about can be traced back to a paper written by a Prof. Warren Rice, titled "Tesla Turbomachinery," and published in the Conference Proceedings of the IV International Tesla Symposium, September 22-25, 1991, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, Yugoslavia.  Professor Rice states that bulk-parameter analysis has been used to accurately model laminar flow in multiple disk rotors, asserting that "...calculated results for laminar flows are in excellent agreement with experimental results for such flows. . . . With proper use of the analytical results, the rotor efficiency using laminar flow can be very high, even above 95%. . . ."  Keep in mind that while the rotor efficiencies can be very high, the fluid flow losses entering and exiting the rotor can be significant and difficult to reduce.  According to Prof. Rice, "There is little or no literature devoted to the flows that cause the main losses in Tesla-type turbomachinery."

As for why the disk-turbine design hasn't seen significant practical application, this is a complex issue.  According to the Tesla Engine Builders Association, mainstream application of the basic technology has already been achieved in the industrial pumping arena: "Texaco claimed in 1986 they were saving $68,000 per year per pump."  Perhaps practical application of the gas turbine is being hampered because Tesla's stated claims for the engine have been difficult to reproduce in the real world.  Sonny Entrican's efforts as recently reported in the TEBA NEWS are a prime example.  For a couple of years now he has been attempting to get a single-stage 48" gas-fired turbine to self sustain, without real success.  (Self-sustained operation means that the power needed to propel the upstream screw compressor is provided by the turbine itself.)  While he appears to have developed a functioning gas turbine, Tesla himself had insurmountable difficulties when it came to the introduction of a commercially viable version.  By the way, Prof. Rice cites a "wide-spread belief" that the fundamental turbine design will see greater utilization in the future based upon its durability under adverse operating conditions.  Other factors leading in this direction are the inherent simplicity of the disk-type rotor, and recent advances in materials technology.

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