Nikola Tesla was one of the smartest people of his generation, maybe even smarter than this generation considering all his inventions led to the advancements in electricity we see today. He basically invented AC electricity and some even discredit Thomas Edison claiming that he stole Tesla’s inventions. However, scientists have been studying Tesla’s inventions for years and it seems that they might have figured out some uses for one of his lesser-known ones.
Tesla invented a microfluidic valve which is often simply called the Tesla valve. It was an odd-shaped conduit for fluids. It contained the main channel that was interspersed with a series of diverting teardrop loops. The loop was oriented in a way that would allow fluids to easily flow through in one direction. The interesting thing was that the flow would be blocked if the motion was reversed.
It was basically a fixed-geometry passive check valve that would only allow the flow of fluids in one direction. The biggest thing was that it had no moving parts and hence had a longer life. The invention was patented in 1920 and that stated as follows “The interior of the conduit is provided with enlargements, recesses, projections, baffles, or buckets which, while offering virtually no resistance to the passage of the fluid in one direction, other than surface friction, constitute an almost impassable barrier to its flow in the opposite direction”.
According to Leif Ristroph, an associate professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, “While Tesla is known as a wizard of electric currents and electrical circuits, his lesser-known work to control flows or fluid currents was truly ahead of its time”. Ristroph has been working on trying to figure out new applications for the Tesla valve and is even an author for a paper related to it in Nature Communications.
Research showed that the flow-blocking ability of the valve was activated by creating turbulence and swirling vortices in the conduit at a certain rate of flow. You could watch the video below to get a good idea of how Tesla’s unique invention worked.
Ristroph explained that “Moreover, the turbulence appears at far lower flow rates than have ever previously been observed for pipes of more standard shapes — up to 20 times lower speed than conventional turbulence in a cylindrical pipe or tube”. This means that the valve could be used in many applications, especially in situations with a lot of vibrations as the valve was shown to work better when the flow of fluid was in pulses or oscillations.
Ristroph spoke about some of the applications, saying that “It could be used to harness the vibrations in engines and machinery to pump fuel, coolant, lubricant, or other gases and liquids”. This could be used in machinery that produces a lot of vibrations. Scientists are looking into the valve’s applications for rockets as the vibrations are pretty strong there.
It’s amazing how such an old invention is still being studied in this modern age. It shows how much ahead of his time Nikola Tesla was and scientists have barely scratched the surface.