Picture of Tesla turbine from old hard drives and minimal tools
Build a Tesla turbine from 2 old computer hard disk drives using basic hand tools and a pillar drill. No metal lathe or other expensive fabrication machinery is required and you only need some basic craft skills. It's crude, but this thing can scream!

Tesla Turbines promise up to 92% efficiency of converting air or fluid flow to rotational energy and its use can also be inverted for use as a pump with exceptionally high efficiency too. With compressed air becoming recognised as a feasible form of energy storage, we can see this device in everyday life soon as a source of locomotion. Factoring the simplicity, robustness and resillience to ingress of this design and you have something ideal for pumping heterogenous fluids like sewarage or fluids with suspended particulate. As a pump, this device has an important role to play in the developing world. More about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_turbine

Step 1: Tools that you will need

Picture of Tools that you will need
1. Torx set of screwdrivers to disassemble the hard drives and to build the rotor
2. Circle cutter - get this from you stationary shop for 1.99
3. Engineering Compass - optional, you can use the circle cutter to mark the workpieces
4. Sheet-metal drill bit and a 5 mm drill bit
5. Half-round file
6. Hole file
7. Craft glue or hot-melt glue
8. Epoxy glue to bond aluminium (that's aluminum to you lot in the US/Canada!)
9. Gaffa/Bodge/Duct/Electrical tape
10. Hacksaw with metal blade to cut aluminium (see proper pronounciation in item 8)
11. Pillar drill
12. Compressor to supply the air to drive the turbine. You can also use a drinking straw and blow really hard 'till your eyes pop out.
13. Some spare hard disk platters (chances are that you will have a couple of attempts to cut the right shape of slots in them)
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nudim26 days ago

good job

Homee201028 days ago

Hey, nice build. I'm also a trombonist!!!!

StephenC181 month ago

So will this thing actually produce power? If so how much?

gerrit_hoekstra (author)  StephenC181 month ago
Yes it could. The power generated would be proportional to the efficacy of the turbine (depends how well it is designed and built) and that of the stepper motor of the hard drive (which you obviously would need to rectify to get a useful DC current). And of course the energy of the air that goes into it.
nerd74731 year ago

I attached a metal frame from the ps2 expansion bay to be a cover for the turbine. I also screwed the sides to it with original screws. The other day I had added wires to the back. I also tested it finally at 65-62 psi

tealk1 year ago
yoou could solder 2 wires to conntact on motor and start making electricity.(but with 22k rpm you will fry this motor i think)
gerrit_hoekstra (author)  tealk1 year ago
it is a stepper motor with 4 outputs typically, so you will first need to run the 4 outputs into 4 diodes connected to a common positive rail. And as soon as you put a load on that output, the turbine will slow down. Frying will happen if the load's current requirement exceeds the current delivery capability of the motor/generator.

Could you link me to an article or provide a schematic on how to wire up the motor to generate energy from it... I have a HDD with three disks and I am planning on mounting the platters all together to get (hopefully) more speed... and I am planning on using an acrylic case...

gerrit_hoekstra (author)  nerd74731 year ago

This should do the trick for nearly all hard drive stepper motors and will cost less than 1£ / 1€ / 1$ / 1 clamshell / 10,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars:


I have a hose connected to my turbine but I need to know about how much psi at minimum do I need to run it? P.S. it is using three platters that are stacked one on top of another with the spacers at the top and bottom of the platters...

gerrit_hoekstra (author)  nerd74731 year ago

What the low threshold is before you get any rotation depends on many things. What is the practical value in knowing this in any case? Maybe just go ahead and blow air / water into it and measure it?

I don't have a air compressor...

gerrit_hoekstra (author)  nerd74731 year ago

It will just about turn if you blow really hard into it through a straw. But then again, I am a trombone player, so I have no problem doing this.

look at my turbine I added two springs on the hose to prevent it from kinking

gerrit_hoekstra (author)  nerd74731 year ago

Very cool!

I re-tested it and got it to run at 60 psi

going to test it today!!!

Hey I had a foot pump and clamped down on the tube going to my Tesla turbine so as to build up pressure and when I released it (close to 115 psi) and it spun a little.

I don't have a air compressor...

DanTDM1 year ago

I want hay! (I'm a horse)

safwan.ndh1 year ago
يسلموا شكرا لكم
nerd74732 years ago
I am building one
tinker2343 years ago
wow could i use this to power a go cart
Dyte6 years ago
Very exciting stuff man. Do you think this system works under water? Also, how long do you estimate will an air bottle of say one liter last when constantly ejecting at 80PSI? A rough estimate is fine because I have no idea :)
gerrit_hoekstra (author)  Dyte6 years ago
I don't see any problem with an air-driven turbine running under water - I should try it, actually. There must be some clever applications for this? As for your second question - this depends on too many factors, espeically build accuracy. Bare in mind this thing was built in a woodworker's shop with nothing more than a pillar drill and a selection of files and a saw. You can either trial-and-error this to answer your question of go do a very interesting degree in mechanical engineering (!) and calculate it.
Yes well, my first idea when I read this was to use this as a lightweight engine for a lightweight boat... running on compressed air. That's why I was wondering if this was feasable; if I'd need 20 liters of compressed air to make it run for half an hour it would be a bad idea :-D. Any idea? Well I suppose the trial and error method is still the best road to follow here! Thanks!
Mr.Clodex Dyte6 years ago
So? The air would make the "Boat" float with displacement rules (Allowing you to glide across).
I wonder if you used the original DC motor as a motor and turned this in to a pump, how much force you could get in air pressure.

Basically, if you used it as a pump you may be able to use a stream of air as propulsion instead.
gerrit_hoekstra (author)  itjstagame3 years ago
All but the very oldest of hard drive motors are stepper motors and not DC motors. It takes a fair bit of circuitry to drive a 4-wire stepper motor, but the simplest solution is to just hack the original hard drive's PCB.

That's the wonderful thing with this invention by Tesla: it works very well both ways. So turning this into a pump will work.
Predator1064 years ago
I'm kind of stuck...I have at my disposal (at least what I want to use..) a 150 GiB WD Raptor hard disk and it has 2 platters built right into it (they're a bit smaller though..kind of unfortunate, but the spindle does spin at 10k RPM. So I imagine that will help me achieve what I am cooking up...could probably switch it out, into another enclosure if I wanted to though. not sure how well it would manage though...as in, if there's a big reason why that size of platter is used (perhaps that particular spindle can't handle it. though I suppose that's not really a showstopper).

Anyways, how can I tell if it's ceramic or metal without drilling into it? Is there a way to drill a ceramic plate successfully, without cracking or shearing?

In theory at least, the boundary effect would likely be a lot better with ceramic ones, too. That's because the old metal plate drive platters actually had an oxide coding (yes..rust) which..if you look at an electron microscope, is actually extremely bumpy/spikey vs slightly hilly (it's a huge difference, at that detail level).

So what hard disc drives have you used? The issue is that well..the drive I want to use is only about 2 years old. I'm not sure how "ancient" yours are though...

You say that some have ceramics, but not many that you've run into (iirc, that's what you said..maybe that was someone else ;) but which manufacturers..years, sizes, etc are these?

I wish there were a good way of being able to tell it, without cracking it. But I don't think e.g. a magnet would be a "test" of that sort of thing.

That's weird. My hard drive platters were aluminum, and they were from 1999-2000. Weird how my platters were solid aluminum.
gerrit_hoekstra (author)  Predator1064 years ago
If the disk flexes in your hand, it is metal. If it snaps when you try to flex it, it is ...uhm... broken :-)

The surface effect is approximately the same over a perfectly smooth or a slightly textured surface - the drag force is applied well above the surface. We are not talking microscopic wind -vanes here, like in a pelton turbine! So ignore the point about the slightly rough iron oxide.

Besides, you will see that a metal hard disk platter is one of the most perfect surfaces you have ever seen - press two of them together and see how much effort is required to separate them.
Maxwell Yun3 years ago
Nice project! I am using this for my science fair project, and it is very useful! I have access to a CNC mill, so I modified your instructable:
1. I machined the hard drive case completely flat.
2. I placed an aluminum block on top and machined it to fit on top of the flat surface.
3. I placed a polycarbonate square on top as a covering.
Thanks for this awesome instructable!

I am from America.
epicnoobpwn3 years ago
Since I'm using an old (10 years old) hard drive, the walls of the turbine don't cover the top hard disks. I'm going to machine a wood enclosure out of wood and mount the motor on it. Basically a wood version of the hardrive casing.
gerrit_hoekstra (author)  epicnoobpwn3 years ago
Should look very nice when done. Post the pictures here!
wildwabbit3 years ago
Great project, a friend of mine is planing on making a slightly bigger steam driven tesla turbine, using parabolic mirrors to generate the steam.

I was intending to use this project as to have a play around with the porting, to see if there was an optimum or preferable set out, I am interested to know what happens when you off set the ports.

I spent half the day building this project and it took 30seconds with my air compressor for the hdd motor to internally disintegrate, I have not the slightest clue as to what the rpm's were but it was screaming, the momentum almost threw it out of my hand when the motor ceased. The shaft is jammed tight i could not get it to even slightly budge with a big pair of pliers.

Oh wel, l just have to find another motor with a long enough shaft, as the couple of spares that I have aren't long enough for the four disc and spacers.

Warning to others, don't get trigger happy with the compressed air, or your fun will be short lived.

Great project great results!!
alvin98615 years ago
I have started redesigning a auto turbocharger into a tesla turbine. The turbo is designed to handle up to 60k rpms and that makes it use perfect. I have built a larger turbine chamber to use 12 harddrive platters. I got an small sump pump to provide continous oil flow. I am using a 5 gal plastic bucket for the oil.
i wouldn't want to hook this up to the oil pump on a car. it pumps somewhat slow and when you start creating back pressure in your engine your going to cook the oil and destroy all the crank bearings. I was just thinking about adding one to a coolant hose. it doesn't destroy as much when there's back pressure and it pumps more liquid faster. if it slows down the coolant too much the car could over heat though.... but there is a temperature gauge on most cars so you should be able to tell when it has gone above normal. i am definitely trying this when i get some time. good luck.
gerrit_hoekstra (author)  alvin98615 years ago
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