Introduction: First Detailed View of the Tesla Turbine

Picture of First Detailed View of the Tesla Turbine

Working Tesla Turbine
Pulse combustion has been one of the most exciting new technologies considered for the Sea Bird. It is important that each system and design be put to the test to ensure it is truly as effective as we want it to be. These tests not only tell us what, if any, changes need to be made, but reassure us that we are on the right path to refitting the Sea Bird.

Pulse Combustion in a Working Environment
After the hot rotor section was fully assembled, we attached it to the turbine nozzle of the pulse combustor to test operation. The combustor performed properly, however, the rotor was slow to self start and could not achieve more than about 25rpm's. Problems were created by the small size of the 1.5" x 3" rectangular tube, which lowered the amount of gas between plates in the Tesla turbine. A majority of the gas wound up around the discs, leaving through the hot rotor case without supplying any power to the turbine.


seabirdadventure (author)2011-08-30

I thought I'd add a bit more on the how to build part.  I'll add a bit at a time to make it more fun but it has been a ton of research and work to get a working 125KW prototype generator.

On a Tesla Turbine, we have a great article about the 3 main keys to making a Tesla Turbine work.

Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the Tesla Turbine, determined that there were three key points to achieving maximum efficiency with the turbine:

Inlet Nozzle
Disk Geometry
Outlet Nozzle

ImBarticus (author)2016-05-18

.you have to use the valvular conduit to create back pressure

Zeebert (author)2013-10-20

I would be interested in the outcome of this, now two year outdated, project. With the sudden lack of updates, it would appear the money ran out.

doinnow2 (author)2012-12-13

not being an engineer, I thought I'd put this on the table for you ...What would happen if you put the exhaust in at the center and let it out at the large end of the thinking on this is does it not want to compress as it moves toward the center of the turbine ?

iamdamnsam (author)2012-10-04

I didn't read all of the posts, but from I gathered was you are basically trying to create electricity from exhaust. Couldn't you run a turbo off the exhaust to create the PSI to run the tesla turbine?

I don't know what pressure you are trying to achieve to turn the tesla turbine but take a turbo from a Cummins truck for example, they easily hit 40psi and with mods to the wastegate can get over 60psi. Compound turbos could double that easily.

greenaura888 (author)2012-03-19

I wasn't going to post this because I thought it hadn't been thought of, but further down the posts there is a suggestion to eliminate the exhaust ports in the disks and evacuate the gases through the shaft.

More disk surface extracts more work from the heat which would necessitate smaller exhaust area.

High Heat in used more, low heat out will be reduced.

unclejoe (author)2012-02-08

The design of Tesla's turbine is, I believe, based on a continuous flow rather than pulse.
Perhaps using a Gluhareff type engine as input to the turbine then directing the exhaust from the turbine to the intake of the Gluhareff jet might make things smoother?

rimar2000 (author)2011-08-29

I think that basically the pulse jet motors are resonant. Then you can't put anything at the input neither the output because that decress drastically the efficience.

Good project. Can you explain how do you made the Tesla turbine?

Hello rimar2000,

You are absolutely correct the PDE is a resonant device we are planning on running it at 100 pulses per minute. Here is Phoenix's earlier design and Ken thoughts.

By using a one way plate, the pulse energy would enter the Tesla Turbine plates seen in the picture below and then the resonant compression would come from a fresh O2 source provided by the 90% H2O2 catalyst engine.

Quick background on the Pulse Detonation Engine.

Cheers, Kris

Years ago I have an idea: why not use the pop-pop principle of work, applied to pulse jets engine? All designs I have seen of pulse jet (PDE too), include valves, or inlet tube. I think it can use the same tube for inlet and outlet (as the pop-pop do). This reduces a bit the efficience, but the balance is positive, (as the pop-pop do).

Maybe a day I could made a test, but I have not so means or resources for it. Basically, a place where I can do A LOT OF AWFUL NOISE.

Hello rimar2000,

Your idea of using a pulse-jet engine is a good one and yes they make a ton of noise. As you know the pulse jet uses one way valves on the in-tank side of the jet to allow fresh air in the front and then block the burning fuel from leaving that way and forcing all the exhaust out the back.

On the PDE I'm working on the air source is from the H2O2 and the fuel is from the waste oil. The ignition for the detonation is from a set of 8 plasma injectors. and the exhaust will leave at very high speeds, heat and pressure.

Cheers, Kris

I not explained well, and not fluent in English, in addition. My idea is to remove the air intake (not fuel) valves, and that the engine take it directly from the tailpipe. Each explosion is a sudden increase in pressure, followed by a pronounced vacuum, produced by the exit of the burnt gases. This vacuum fills again with air the combustion chamber.

Air valves are a huge headache because of the great thermal stress to which they are subjected. Moreover, even if well designed, are an important obstacle to airflow. My proposal changes one problem for another, but much smaller. The engine would be far much simpler, almost silly, lightweight, easy to build and very very cheap.

Anyway, I think it can't be used for another purpose than propel. If you add anything at air inlet or outlet, it does not work.

I mentioned the pop-pop engine because it works in a similar way, and despite the apparent neutralization of forces, is very effective.

I hope you can understand, sorry for my clumsy English.

ostlandr (author)rimar20002011-11-13

If I recall correctly, Telsa designed a one-way valve with no moving parts. It's in his patents online. If that could be made to work for a PDE, it might eliminate the mechanical air valves. Then a blower connected to the Turbine could maintain the intake airflow. Of course the next step is continuous combustion, creating the previously mentioned radial-flow gas turbine using the Tesla design.

Hello rimar2000,

Your English is very good.  I understand you perfectly :) 

Also I agree with you completely, if you look at my initial design you'll notice there is no air inlet at all it is a straight rocket engine. You'll see the large stainless fuel tank on the right.  Then the fuel line running to the gauges and then to the thrust engine which is the small silver device hooked up to the nozzle of the turbine.

When we move the PDE phase, there will still be a H2O2 fuel line for the oxidizer, there will be a waste oil line and there will be eight plasma injectors, but there will be no air intake.

Cheers, Kris

Great! Glad that my idea is not so far fetched, and that is not only shared by you but you're doing the tests I would like to do for years.

I want you to succeed.

Thank you rimar2000 for your vote, this is my 1st one.

Cheers, Kris

Hello rimar2000

I thank you for your support and interest.  This has been and continues to be a passion project for me and my crew.  I've got video for the 1st running of the system but need to get it to look produced.  Then I'll make sure to post it here where all of you guys have been great in your questions and comments.

Cheers, Kris

ostlandr (author)2011-11-11

Think about exhausting your Tesla turbine through a hollow shaft instead of holes in the plates. I have a working proof-of-concept prototype on my kitchen table right now. You get more surface area for the same number of discs. I also use the spacers (washers currently) at the edge, which make it technically a hybrid impulse/boundary layer turbine.
Also, why abuse your Tesla machine by burning stuff in it? A steam boiler is old tech, but a modern hybrid boiler with automated controls will let you burn virtually anything combustible to fuel Seabird. Use waste heat from the condenser and exhaust to preheat the combustion air, and you can run very high controlled temps in your boiler, which means clean exhaust.
I also plan to work on an integrated turbine/generator, with the turbine case as the stator and ALNICO magnets as the spacer washers on the turbine.

lemonie (author)2011-08-29

For what reasons did you decide that this type of turbine was best suited to the application?
For example, is there any precedent for "Tesla turbine"-driven marine vessels (or anything else)?


seabirdadventure (author)lemonie2011-08-30

Hello Lemonie,

Great questions, to my knowledge no one has applied a Tesla Turbine, PDE to a generator running on a ship to provide power for AC Vectorized motors.

Here is a quick write up on our plans baldor-reliance-ac-vc-motor

There are many ships now running on steam or diesel generators driving AC Vector propulsion pods as see in the picture below made by Rolls-Royce called the Mermaid.

To your 1st question, the impulse and reactor based turbine would not have been able to take the heat pressure we are generating form the thrust and planned PDE device. 

The PDE will be set to generate 100 pulses per minute of 5500F at 40,000PSI, the normal methods would have been destroyed.  Tesla's design uses perpendicular plates which can take the energy without coming apart. Here is more information Three Keys to Tesla Turbine Efficiency

lemonie (author)seabirdadventure2011-08-30

OK, the turbine best suits your hot-gas source. Have you any idea of the combined thermal efficiency of this set-up?


seabirdadventure (author)lemonie2011-08-31

Hello lemonie,

Thank you, my thoughts too. for thermal efficiency, I would love to get into the total efficiencies of 73% but I have along way to go. especially with all the parasitic's from the turbine bearings, through the trans mission coupled to the generator. The generator it self is around 97%, the gearbox drops about 3.4% due to it being a s-10 truck transmission, so already dropping 6% to get to the turbine coupling. Drop another 1.5% for the turbine bearings, call it a total of 8%.

Then we have gas heat/thrust to plate stickiness issues, the exhaust heat needs to be reused, the heat dissipated to all the metal components to consider, all of this is where the real work come in for energy to work conversion.

So the short answer is not yet, we are getting roughly 40% now but have many trails yet to do.

Cheers, Kris

lemonie (author)seabirdadventure2011-08-31

40% overall isn't that bad, but 97% on the generator sounds rather too good(?).
I'd go with 80% for an electrical generator.
Interesting though, a lot of people just talk about using these things, you do right by building one and testing it.


seabirdadventure (author)lemonie2011-09-01

Good Morning lemonie,

Well morning for me.  Thank you on your comments, 40% is what we are getting with the current design seen in the 1st picture below. 

In order to increase efficiency, Tesla has identified three keys to increasing efficiency in his designs. 

So below are some ideas that other designers have come up with for increasing the turbine pack efficiency, there are claims that these modified version can gain an additional 15% may be more.

However modifying the internal spacers from a simple washer to these swept designs we quickly move from a Tesla Laminar flow turbine to an impulse turbine as seen in the article we have called Understanding Turbines.

Cheers, Kris

lemonie (author)seabirdadventure2011-09-01

It's interesting, more performance data would be nice - keep posting updates.


seabirdadventure (author)lemonie2011-09-01

Hello and Thank you,

Yes it has been and continues to be a blast. I am in the process of purchasing a CNC laser cutting table so I can get a quicker turn around time on parts, I'm also looking at getting a CNC mill and lathe for building more prototype parts.

We also have video on the initial test runs of the turbine which I need to get posted, lots of noise and fun.

Did you have a look at the H2O2 testing pictures?

Cheers, Kris

lemonie (author)seabirdadventure2011-09-03

You burned your thumb, it's nasty like that (done it) - wear rubber-gloves next time.


seabirdadventure (author)lemonie2011-09-03

LOL you looked, It's interesting though, with H2O2 your skin turns bright white but add water and a little time and all is good and you don't even lose any skin.

I do have gloves and lemonie is right, any anyone playing around with H2O2 in strong concentrations should absolutely use gloves. The marks I got were from extremely small amounts of H2O2 and I'm sure if I got more on it could have been painful.

The Last picture is of H2O2 and a silver (Ag) catalyst disk with a timer.

Thanks for the comment.

Kiteman (author)2011-08-29

So, you're trying to use the exhaust of a pulse jet or Reynst pot to generate electricity?

I don't think that will work so well, since disrupting the exhaust flow can cause back pressure- waves that mess up the combustion.

Personally, to generate electricity from the wide range of fuels that a Reynst pot can utilise, I would use the temperature difference between the pot and the sea to run a stirling-cycle engine to drive a generator.

seabirdadventure (author)Kiteman2011-08-30

Hello Kiteman,

Agreed in principal but what if you have the pulse energy go to the Tesla Blades while having a back flow for the next pulse come from an additional source of hi-pressure O2. Take a look at Luis initial drawings at and you can see the basis for our ideas.

In the picture you see the 1st stage of testing which is running 90% H2O2, no waste oil or detonation. 1st level testing is equivalent to attaching a mono-propellant rocket engine with 300lbs at 975F thrust into a Tesla Turbine plate set. More pictures are here at

The 2nd stage testing is to add a bi-propellant 90% H2O2 initial stage igniting the next stage of waste oil bringing the exhaust up to 5500F.

Then the 3rd stage will be building and testing a PDE version of Stage 2.

Kiteman (author)seabirdadventure2011-08-31

You're testing on apples with a plan to run on oranges!

Rockets and PDEs are completely different beasts, working on very different principals. The rocket will give a constant stream of high-pressure exhaust. Restraining it through the plates of a Tesla turbine does not change the combustion conditions within the rocket.

As you have already noted, pulse detonation is a resonance process - air and fuel mix and detonate in pulses, the frequency of which are a combined result of the physical dimensions of the jet, and the speed at which the fuel burns. A large part of pulse jet design has to focus on the exhaust nozzle, getting it just right to match the exit gasses to leave the combustion chamber completely before they start to contract. If contraction starts a moment to early, the engine will starve itself of oxygen. A moment too late, and it will not retain enough heat to ignite the next pulse.

Obstructions in the gas-flow, even if they are outside the jet, unconnected to the exhaust, can cause back-pressure waves that wreck the resonance, break up the surprisingly-fragile toroidal vortices that mix the fuel vapour with the incoming air. I would bet actual money that your poor efficiency is not due to the throat of the jet, but because you have connected it to the Tesla.

Get your man Luis Mendonca to compare how easy it is to run the jet with and without the Tesla connected.

Actually, have you run the turbine from a jet at all? I see drawings of the turbine, I see photos of the turbine. I see drawings of one kind of pulse jet, and I see a single photo that might show a totally different kind of pulse jet (this one), but I don't see a photo that obviously shows jet and turbine connected, and I certainly don't see a video of it happening.

Luis' turbine design is odd as well - a single plate?  Why did he remove the others?  Tesla turbine efficiency relies on the interaction of moving fluids and the surface of the plates - more plates = more surface = better turbine.

And why does he say that burning propane and natural gas produced no "pollution gas"?  Has he not heard of CO2? Does he not know that water vapour is a pollutant?


I wish you luck in your wider plans, but I do not hold much hope for this particular part of it.

However, I also hope to be proven wrong, and look forward to seeing videos of it running successfully.

seabirdadventure (author)Kiteman2011-08-31

Hello Kiteman,

I really like you analogy but you need to add one more fruit, :) 

Yes, the first stage we'll call the "plum stage" is really the simplest part, well not all that simple but simpler then the rest.  In this part it's all about getting the Tesla part as efficient as possible so using the mono-propellant engine give me a nice 975F 1200m/s thrust engine against the turbine plates.  With this I can work on the surface area, inter-plate design, nozzle interface, transmission, coupling, generator speed management, oil injection and many other fun moving part items.  Welcome to the "Plum stage"

Now for the "apple stage" here is where we take all the "plum" work and add the following new fun item; we add waste oil to the combustion.  This changes a bunch of things; the temperature goes from 975F to 5500F which in turn forces me to use poly-alloys or what I'm currently getting worked up, once all of the "plum testing is done", ceramics.  The thrust engine, turbine housing, turbine plates and exhaust manifold all have to be made out of ceramics for both strength and heat tolerances.  So the "apple stage" is rally about materials and handling a bunch of heat while increasing efficiencies.  Please forgive the apple stage article, but I don't have any picture of the ceramics yet as I need to finish the plum stage.

Now for the "orange stage".  If everything goes as planned in the last two parts I'm really building a pulse detonation engine, meaning that instead of deflagration of the fuel as seen in rocket engines and diesel engines, I truly intend to have the fuel detonate at a pulse rate of 100p/m with each pulse being around 40,000psi for very short time periods.  Doing this requires an optimal mixture of O2 around the hydrocarbon molecule and then using plasma injectors to detonate the mixture.  The temp is roughly the same due to duty cycle the pressure goes up about 4 times but again the duty cycle helps.

Hope this helps a little with my thinking process.

Cheer, Kris

PS118 (author)2011-08-29

I'd like to start out with a
Followed closely with a

seabirdadventure (author)PS1182011-08-30

Hello PS118,

And Thank you for the excitement, the entire project has been a WOOT and then some.

Ok now for the details, there are many, So I'll give you links to the major parts of the entire project below;

As for the project I entered into a purchase agreement for the Sea Bird a ship built 1944 for the US Army.

She is a movie star - yes a ship that is a movie star,

She is a hero during the Texas Tower number 4 disaster and

I am in the process of replacing her seven diesel engines with this new Tesla Turbine electric propulsion waste oil burning, zero emissions engine.

When this is all working our goal is to help clean up the ocean plastic patches and use the Sea Bird as a spokesperson  for going "Beyond Green".

I hope this helps and please feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

Thank you Again!!!

About This Instructable




Bio: Kris Land a San Diego Based Technology Entrepreneur has entered into a purchase agreement to purchase the Sea Bird. The Sea Bird is a commercial ... More »
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