Nikola Tesla was a genius inventor who created some ground breaking inventions. Tesla collaborated with many big names and companies in history. Because some of his ideas were considered far out there at the time, Tesla is often featured in science fiction television shows and movies. Tesla held 300 patents to his name when he died.
Chances are that you have already seen this invention. It is a tower (of any height) that uses coils to shoot lightning out into the air. The capacitors store and build up energy to create a spark gap then shoot the energy into the air like lightning bolts. Tesla Coils can be found in museums and science centers as entertainment, they never took on much of a purpose beyond scientific testing.
The Magnifying Transmitter
One of Tesla’s biggest obsessions was providing power wirelessly and he had intended the Tesla Coil to be part of his wireless power systems. To test this, he built two record breaking Tesla Coils. The towers shot out lightning bolts 130 feet long. Tesla was considered to be ahead of his time and wireless electrical power didn’t get officially developed until the mid 2010’s. Today it still isn’t as prevalent as it could be.
The Tesla Turbine
Tesla saw the rise of the piston engine in the automobile industry as a way to make a change in the world. He developed his own turbine style engine that used combustion to make disks rotate. The fuel efficiency of his engine was 60%, a big achievement considering our fuel efficiency level is about 42%.
While Rontgen has been credited with developing the first x-ray films called shadowgraphs, there is clear evidence that Tesla may have been working on that beforehand. The problem is that Tesla lost a lot of his work due to a fire in his lab. Tesla took Rontgen’s shadowgraph method and improved on it, making one of the clearest x-rays ever seen.
Before his lab burnt down, Tesla was working on developing a radio. He was going to send the signal 50 miles but before he could rebuild his lab and his equipment, an Italian man in England was able to secure the patent for the device. Tesla’s radio would have been stronger if he had been able to use it.
The Neon Lamp
Tesla did not invent the fluorescent or neon lights but he did contribute to improving both inventions. He took the lights and created the first neon sign. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair he demonstrated neon light signs and how they can make unique designs and even form words. Thanks to Tesla you can identify your favorite bar.
The Niagara Falls Transformer House
When it came to deciding what company would build a power generator at Niagara Falls, Thomas Edison was the first choice. After reviewing Tesla’s work for Westinghouse Electric though, the Niagara Falls commission went with Tesla’s alternating current power. Despite doubts, Tesla’s system worked and is now the standard for hydroelectric power.
The Induction Motor
Again, Tesla went head to head in creating an invention. This time Tesla won. Ferrari may have presented their induction engine first but Tesla had filed for his patents earlier. The motor uses electromagnets to spin. It is commonly used in vacuums, blow dryers, and power tools, even today.
The Radio Controlled Boat
The teleautomaton was the first radio controlled boat that was designed by Tesla. After being denied a patent because the patent office didn’t think it was feasible, he proved them wrong by demonstrating the boat at the Electrical Exhibition in 1898. It is considered the grandfather of the drone.
The Alternating Current
Alternating Current is considered Tesla’s crowning achievement. While not the inventor of AC power he made it easy to use widespread. AC power allows for electricity to be sent over long distances much more efficiently. Westinghouse bought Tesla’s AC patents and used them to bid on the lighting of the Chicago World’s Fair. They won the contract and were able to provide power at around $150,000, which is less than it would have cost to provide power using direct current.