Serbian-American engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) made dozens of breakthroughs in the production, transmission and application of electric power.
Though he was famous and respected, he was never able to translate his copious inventions into long-term financial success—unlike his early employer and chief rival, Thomas Edison.
George Westinghouse, an inventor (the air brake) who, like Edison, turned industrialist (having found that to profit from an invention one must undertake manufacturing and marketing as well) saw the promise in Tesla’s poly phase inventions and formed an alliance with the young prodigy. Westinghouse paid Tesla one million dollars and contracted to pay a royalty of one dollar per horsepower for the poly phase inventions. Later Westinghouse was forced to renege on the royalty.
Together, Westinghouse and Tesla triumphed over Edison’s D.C. system and installed the first A.C. power facilities, the most notable being the hydra plant at Niagara Falls. Tesla believed in hydropower. His ultimate energy magnifying, wireless power system would have been hydro-based.
1) Alternating Current (A.C): He invented the first alternating current (AC) motor and developed AC generation and transmission technology. It is Tesla’s system that provides power generation and distribution to North America in our modern era.
2) Tesla Coils: The Tesla coil was invented in 1891 and uses two coils, a primary and a secondary, with each coil having its own capacitor. A capacitor, like a battery, stores energy. The coils are connected to a spark gap, which is just open air where the spark can generate, and the result is that the Tesla Coil can shoot lightning bolts, send electric currents through the body and create electron winds.
These are a type of electrical circuit used to generate low-current, high-voltage electricity. Today, they’re widely used in radios, televisions and other electronics, and can be used for wireless transmission.
3) Light: Tesla developed and used fluorescent bulbs in his lab some 40 years before industry “invented” them. At the World’s Fair, Tesla took glass tubes and bent them into famous scientists’ names, in effect creating the first neon signs.
4) X-rays: He also experimented with X-rays, gave short-range demonstrations of radio communication two years before Guglielmo Marconi and piloted a radio-controlled boat around a pool in Madison Square Garden.
5) Radio signals: Radio signals are just another frequency that needs a transmitter and receiver, which Tesla also demonstrated in 1893 during a presentation before The National Electric Light Association. In 1904, however instead, The U.S. Patent Office reversed its decision, awarding Guglielmo Marconi a patent for the invention of radio, possibly influenced by Marconi’s financial backers in the States, who included Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie. This also allowed the U.S. government (among others) to avoid having to pay the royalties that were being claimed by Tesla.
Radio controlled tanks were introduced by the Germans in WWII.
6) Electric motor: Tesla’s invention of the electric motor with rotating magnetic fields could have freed mankind much sooner from the stranglehold of Big Oil. However, his invention in 1930 succumbed to the economic crisis and the world war that followed. Nevertheless, this invention has fundamentally changed the landscape of what we now take for granted: industrial fans, household appliances, water pumps, machine tools, power tools, disk drives, electric wristwatches and compressors.
7) Laser: Tesla’s invention of the laser may be one of the best examples of the good and evil bound up together within the mind of man. Lasers have transformed surgical applications in an undeniably beneficial way, and they have given rise to much of our current digital media. However, with this leap in innovation we have also crossed into the land of science fiction.
8) Hydroelectric power: Tesla designed the first hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls, New York, harnessing the power of the waterfalls he had marveled at since childhood. Construction took three years and power first flowed to homes in nearby Buffalo on Nov. 16, 1896. A statue of Tesla on Goat Island overlooks the falls today.
9) Disk-Turbine Rotary Engine: Tesla called it a powerhouse in a hat. One version developed 110 H.P at 5000 RPM and was less than ten inches in diameter. Tesla believed larger turbines could achieve 1000 HP. The disk-turbine rotary engine runs vibration free.
10) Superconductivity: Alternating currents can be sent over long distances with relatively low losses. This is why Tesla’s early 60-cycle system triumphed over Edison’s direct current. The high frequency, high-potential output of a Tesla coil can travel over relatively light conductors for vastly greater distances than conventional 60-cycle AC Losses occur to some degree from corona discharge but hardly at all from ohmic resistance. This type of current also renders conductive materials that are normally nonconductive, rarefied gases, for example. You might say these currents make a medium superconductive.
11) Electrotherapy: Tesla understood the therapeutic value of high-frequency vibrations. He never patented in the area but did announce his findings to the medical community, and a number of devices were patented and marketed by others.
Patients, by focusing certain frequencies on afflicted areas, or, in some cases, just sitting in the vicinity of vibrations from a device like the Lakhovsky Multi wave Oscillator, which produced a blend of specific frequencies, were said to have experienced relief from rheumatism and other painful conditions. It was even considered a cure for certain types of paralysis. Such radiation’s increase the supply of blood to the area with a warming effect (diathermy). They enhance the oxygenation and nutritive value of the blood, increase various secretions, and accelerate the elimination of waste products in the blood. All this promotes healing.
12) Wireless power transmission: This via the magnifying transmitter was the ultimate development of the inventor who had earlier brought alternating-current power to the world with his poly phase system. The predecessor of A.C. was a direct-current system developed, manufactured, and marketed chiefly by Thomas Edison. Direct current was adequate for serving small areas but was unworkable for long distance transmission. By contrast, A.C. could be transmitted for long distances over lighter wires and its voltage could be stepped up for transmission and down for consumption by means of transformers.
13) Turbine Aircraft: Tesla’s only patented aircraft is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) plane that he intended as an improvement upon the helicopter, already invented at this time (1921): The helicopter type of flying machine, especially with large inclination angle of the propeller axis to the horizontal, at which it is generally expected to operate, is quite unsuitable for speedy aerial transport; it is incapable of proceeding horizontally along a straight line under prevailing air conditions; it is subject to dangerous plunges and oscillations and it is almost certainly doomed to destruction in case the motive power gives out.