A one-way water valve with no moving parts created by Nikolas Tesla 100 years ago may well find modern use, a new study claims. According to the report it could be used to pump fluids from engines using energy that would otherwise be wasted.
The valve conduit, patented by Tesla in 1920 is not very complex by itself, but it is very ingenious and clearly ahead of its time.
The system is geometrically quite complex, however, with a duct that imposes specific forces on the fluids moving through it. The mechanical stresses encountered by the fluid force it to form a loop in itself at various points.
As the water flows into the mouth of the handles, it becomes turbulent and slows down, which stops the flow. But if the water flows in the other direction, it does not enter the bends and flows freely.
In order to find a modern use for Tesla's valve, New York University built a 30-centimeter-long version of the valve following Tesla's original plan. They then measured the flow in both directions of operation, at different pressures. Although Tesla claimed in its patent that the valve could make water flow 200 times slower in one directionthan in the other, the researchers found that their version just made it twice as slow.
Although the effect was much smaller than Tesla claimed, the valve is still a useful design, the research team found. This is mainly because it has no moving parts and can therefore be used without maintenance.
According to the researchers, there was no difference in resistance between the two types of use (in both directions) at low flow. However, the valve would activate abruptly above flow rates of about 1 centimeter per second and significantly resist reverse flow.
a) Modified diagram of Tesla's patent showing a floor plan of the "valve conduit". b) Rendering of the conduit used in the experiments. The top and bottom caps sandwich the internal geometry, which is scanned from Tesla's drawing, laser cut and glued. c) Diagram of the pressure chamber. The overflow mechanisms ensure fixed water levels that cause flowin the conduit, which is actually vertically oriented, as shown in b. © Leif Ristroph et al.
Tesla also patented an electrical converter from alternating current to direct current, he designed the valve conduit to try to achieve the same type of conversion with fluids. Electricity, in alternating current, sees electrons constantly reversing their direction, but when converted to direct current, they actually circulate in a loop.
The researchers also made a Tesla water valve ring to mimic Tesla's electric converter and found that it was able to process oscillating water (thrown back and forth by a piston) and convert it into a constant flow of water in one direction, achieving the effect of a pump.
Researchers believe this concept can harness vibrations from engines and other machinery to pump fuel, coolants, lubricants and other gases and liquids.
The study was published in Nature Communications.
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