How to Make a Mini Compressed Air Turbine

Picture of How to Make a Mini Compressed Air Turbine
In case you didn't know this yet, compressed air is pretty awesome.  With simple mechanical systems - pumps - energy can be stored and used for an infinite amount of applications.  What I like about compressed air is how simple and accessible it is.  Anyone with a bike pump can start moving air to greater pressures.  Soda-pop bottles can be turned into air tanks, and by looking a little online and on Instructables, you'll find people who've used compressed air to do everything from shooting water balloons to powering a bicycle.

In this Instructable, I will show how I made a miniature compressed air turbine.  

8/16/13: Thank you for the feature!
8/16/13:  I'm just shy of 9000 views in barely 12 hours!  Thanks everyone!
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Video!

1-40 of 61Next »
albertuschw9 months ago
sorry, may i get more detail dimension about this design? i try design on scale to 50mmx50mm but when air move to blade, three blade don;t spin because friction with inside wall then i release one blade so the rest are 2 blade and it is spin, but it don;t work because too much losses air on exhaust hole... may i got your suggestion? and email so i can contact more detail on email with CAD program (inventor)... thx

try sanding down the rotor sides a little, just a thought

ajay84210 months ago
This really reminds me of a toy car I had a few years back, it ran off of air and had a piston that would expand and contract like a real motor but instead of gases moving it, it was compressed air. When the tires moved the piston to a certain point it would put some gas into the chamber and propel it forward. It was a really cool design. I sold it though for like 30 bucks and I regret that now because it went up a lot. It's vintage 1980's too.
Heres a link
fozzy13 (author)  ajay84210 months ago
I've had a few different toys that used small piston-based compressed air motors. If I had had more time when I worked as an Artist in Residence, I may have tried to 3D print one. Compressed air is so much fun.

Thanks for the comment!
ajensen1910 months ago
Interesting, but I don't really get it. What applications does it have.
fozzy13 (author)  ajensen1910 months ago
If you can think of any application where a small electric motor could be used, this could be used instead and run on air power! That said, it was made more for the sake of making one than for it to actually be put to work..
EVIL STICKMAN11 months ago
it works and sounds like a dentist drill , it is epic i must say
fozzy13 (author)  EVIL STICKMAN10 months ago
Thank you! I'm very happy with how it works and sounds : )
Pietenpol11 months ago
I have to ask...does it double as a bong?
fozzy13 (author)  Pietenpol11 months ago
Just because it has two holes does not mean it is also a bong. No. But I'm happy to answer the question.
steinie4411 months ago
It looks to me that the Exhaust Hole is covered by the Turbine. Is there a space there?
fozzy13 (author)  steinie4411 months ago
There is a space there. The rotor has a washer between it and each end of the housing.
stackerjack11 months ago
Well Done Fozzy.
It's good to see people who actually make things, and get them working, rather than just talk about them.
I would imagine the speed is extremely high, maybe up to 30 or 40 thousand rpm.
Ceramic Bearings are good for up to 100,000rpm if you ever need them. But they are a bit expensive.
Keep up the good work.
fozzy13 (author)  stackerjack11 months ago
Thank you!

Judging by the sound, I definitely think the RPM's are up there which makes me pretty happy, but I haven't measured.

Thanks for the comment!
Thanks Fozzy.
Do be careful of those high RPMs. If the wheel were to disintegrate, it would fly apart at many hundreds of m.p.h.
You wouldn't see it happen, it would all be over in a split second, no time to blink.
So, please wear safety specs.
Remember, you're using your last set of eyes now.
Have you tried lubricating the shafts?
fozzy13 (author)  stackerjack11 months ago
I haven't tried lubricating the shaft. It's a loose fit, and not airtight, so I don't think it would help much, but I suppose it can't hurt..
Edgar11 months ago
Went to my Blog:
gaiatechnician11 months ago
How WEAK can you make it? !! Because if you can make it to run off a solar panel and provide 1 psi or so, it can fill a huge need in my project! Last year I started a low pressure pneumatic grid project. It usually pumps water with the airlift pump process. The beauty of low pressure air and the airlift pump is that you have a central air compressor and the pumps are just tubes joined together. NO MOVING PARTS IN THE PUMPS! I currently run 9 pallet gardens with constant watering on my grid. And the project works really well. One weakness is that there are no decent low pressure air pumps available to run off dc from a solar panel. You can get low pressure air to run aquaponics, hydroponics, kinetic sculptures, mini water wheels on ponds, wash root vegetables or clothes, dry fruit, cool stuff as you dry it, and more and more! Mine runs off 3 psi air from an aquarium fish tank bubble pump BUT it actually only uses about 18 inches or about 3/4 psi. I have used it so far to cycle water for "pallet gardens" and vertical pallet planters. Some people in the windowfarms community have used my designs for this in Windowfarms across the world. I think I use 7 Watts to run everything.
fozzy13 (author)  gaiatechnician11 months ago
That sounds pretty awesome! Mine is able to run by blowing into it when the adapter is taken off. IT's a very small pressure but has not been measured.

Thanks for the comment!
MercuryCrest11 months ago
Silly question....
You mentioned using 1/8" acrylic...without anything to compare it to in the images, it's hard to tell, but that looks like 1/4"....
fozzy13 (author)  MercuryCrest11 months ago
I promise you it is 1/8"! : )
MadEdd11 months ago
Nice project. When you need to use a lasercutter you can look for a FabLab. They will have a lasercutter and maybe a 3D-printer. And in a real FabLab you can use their stuff for free or you pay a small amount of money during their 'free hours'. I am a labmanager in a FabLab in the Netherlands, every thursday afternoon you can use this Lab for free!
fozzy13 (author)  MadEdd11 months ago
I seem to live in a maker's wasteland.. The closest FabLab or TechShop is at least an hour away from me, but I have been looking for places that can get me to more resources..
shizumadrive11 months ago
are laser cutters easily accessible to most people. Seems like many have access and ive never seen one in person.

INteresting item im just really curious why I've not see one yet
My first introduction to them was from the Milwaukee Makerspace and we now have 3 in our inventory.

I'd highly recommend looking for a makerspace in your area which may have one available to members. Additionally, there are many companies which will laser cut your designs for a price.

There are some affordable "hobbyist" models out there, but their price tends to be around $5-$6,000 starting.
Thanks I've looked them up and I live in a major city which is a good thing but they're on the opposite site of the city. I wonder if one could be made piece by piece. Control through an arduino or similar device, The laser Id guess would be the most costly. Hmmm Ill have to look this up.
fozzy13 (author)  shizumadrive11 months ago
I only had access to laser cutters while I was an Artist in Residence at Instructables, so I don't anymore unfortunately. There is an Instructable on how to make a small laser cutter if you search for it! And Instructables runs at least one contest every year where they give away a laser cutter as a prize. Also as mentioned, makerspaces and hackerspaces will have them sometimes. They're really awesome tools.
Mig Welder11 months ago
Did you use bearings of any kind? It seems like at such high RPMs, bearings would be a must.
fozzy13 (author)  Mig Welder11 months ago
No bearings for simplicity's sake. It performs very well at high RPM's even without them if you watched the video!

Thanks for the comment!
eyeguy611 months ago
Why didn't you just make a Tesla Turbine? It would have easier and maybe worked better.
jpatarb eyeguy611 months ago
Why don't you make a tesla turbine (they're easy to make) and post an instructable?
fozzy13 (author)  jpatarb11 months ago
Take a look at the reply I wrote above. You're not the only Instructables user thinking about Tesla turbines!
fozzy13 (author)  eyeguy611 months ago
I didn't make a Tesla Turbine because I wanted to make one with blades. It's as simple as that really. I liked how the bladed turbine looked inside the case better, and at this small of a scale, I didn't think the surface area along such small disks would be able to generate much power. I did consider it though!

Thanks for the comment!
cyberdove11 months ago
Sounds too much like a dentist's drill
fozzy13 (author)  cyberdove11 months ago
I like that sound! In my opinion that means it's a real turbine. Dentists's drills actually are small turbines!
drcad11 months ago
Nice job Fozzy,
I see working weel with compressible liquids like ammoniac which will extract slightly colder that the intake.
Now i have a challenge for you.
You should bring your experiment to a highier level to make a compartment volume diffenrential going from a higher volume intake to a smaller exhaust chamber. Think about a screw type prototype with an intake on flange and exhaust near the tip.
Cheers, keep on exploring.
fozzy13 (author)  drcad11 months ago
That's an interesting idea. I'd love to play around with something like this more, but without access to a laser cutter, that's not very likely. Cutting super-precise parts with a Dremel just isn't very practical..
Nunya311 months ago
Interesting concept - this could do lots of different duties, particularly when there is no electrical power.

Did you try to measure the speed of the turbine at different air pressures?
fozzy13 (author)  Nunya311 months ago
I haven't measured the speed in any way, nor do I have an easy way to do that unfortunately. Because this turbine was made with no particular purpose intended, I'm just happy with the unmeasured performance for now, but maybe we'll see it in a future project!

Thanks for the comment!
redrooster11 months ago
You could try old school VCR video heads,they have very precise tolerances and make excellent bearings.
1-40 of 61Next »

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?


PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!