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Tesla turbines as viable generators? Answered

Anyone have any thoughts about Tesla turbines, potentially as something steam based to plug into an alternator? The internet seems to be of the opinion that they're either fantastic or crap. I'm thinking of this as an easier and cheaper option than a steam piston or Stirling system for my solar energy thing.



9 years ago

To make a tesla turbine run efficiently I suspect you need the right combination of pressure and flow of whatever gas you are driving it with. I think from an engineering point of view they are fantastically simple, but the turbines currently in use are more efficient (in large scale power generation anyway).

I have seen plenty of "toy" models but none that could handle hundreds of watts from steam- you'd have to think very carefully about pressure sealing and how you were going to protect your bearings from the steam.

Incidentally, there are plenty of high-power high-temperature stirling engines kicking around the internet, both homemade and commercial. Check out the stuff 24max has put on Youtube, or just google around for commercial stirling engines. I would love to convert one of the external combustion ones to parabolic solar heat.

I've been looking round heaps for Stirling engines, but the only 1-2 kW models I can find are pre commercial release. I rang sunpower, who do a really nice 1.3 kW free piston, but they don't manufacture and the few companies they've sold the rights to so far are either doing co-generation or nothing with it. And no one can tell me a price. If someone can do a cheap 1 kW engine and _actually get around to selling it_ it would be a revolution. People could be powering their homes with solar or biomass or syngas or whatever, prety much for free and we wouldn't have to build so many coal power plants. But no one seems to be doing it. Unless I just haven't found them yet.

I think we're talking about a medium-sized revolution actually, at least in sunny parts of the world. A concentrating solar dish built like a large satellite TV dish (can't be hard to do, skin a pressed steel dish with reflective mylar), a solar tracker (this site alone has plenty of designs including some very ingenious stuff like the dripper tracker) and one of those engines could produce 1kw, conveniently the continuous power usage of an average Western home. You'd need batteries as well for 24-hour power, but so does all weather-based renewable energy. People in the desert states could shell out the few thousand US$ it would cost and have free electricity (the precedent is there with people buying PV installations), and think what that 1KW could power in a developing country- a small internet cafe, water pumps, refrigeration for food and medical supplies storage, indoor lighting for a whole village or school... Can you tell I think about this plan a lot?

Hey, where'd my post go? (is this becuase I used a bad word? Sorry.) Anyway, what you've mentioned is basically exactly what I plan to do with the next year or two. I'm desiging a tracking system and dish which would be very easy and cheap to construct, particularly for use in developing countries. I'm then hoping to travel round wherever there's sunlight working with NGOs and giving the thing away. Everything you say about energy production and use is true. I will now resist the urge to swear. (It's only because I'm exited about this.)

They can be used as a turbine for a generator quite effectively, look at the tesla turbine 'ibles made of CDs, there's one using water pressure from the tap to do work (blenderize stuff I think) Err how do you plan to get energy from sun, just out of question.

But could a 1 / 2 kW model be practically made at home? Tracking parabolic dish, porting raw solar into a light pipe.

Hmm, if you can get the pressure to make it run the turbine at good speed it'd be pretty efficient, at least on the turbine's side of things, though there are dangers and impracticalities about super heated high pressure steam...