Nikola Tesla designed a one-way water valve 101 years ago. Now, the design is suddenly seeing a resurgence of interest today. First patented in 1920, Tesla’s valvular conduit is a pipe with an internal teardrop-shaped loop design that forces fluids through it without working parts.
Nikola Tesla’s valve had so much potential with no moving parts that could break, but the design didn’t seem to go anywhere. Until now.
Dusting Off a Century-Old Nikola Tesla Invention
Recently, scientists at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences re-engineered a replica of Tesla’s one-way valve. Then they realized it has great potential for use in machinery to harness the power of vibrations from motors.
Without using moving parts, liquids of all kinds could be forced through, including:
- pump fuel
- other gases and liquids
Due to the design, a forward flow is encouraged while a reverse flow is slow unless the overall flow rates are slow. If the overall flow is slow, there is little difference in flow rates. Therefore, the scientists believe they could use it as a benefit where flows “need to be controlled rather than unleashed.”
Once flow rates reach a certain speed, then the valve “turns on,” resisting backflow. These slower flows can work to effectively “plug” the system with “vortices and disrupting currents.”
Did AC-DC Converters Inspire Nikola Tesla’s Valve Design?
Also, the researchers found that Tesla’s one-way valve works best when the flow moves in oscillations and pulses rather than a steady flow.
“This pumping action mimics the AC-DC converters that transform alternating current to direct current, they explained,” reported Machine Design.
Indeed, Leif Ristroph from New York University believes that’s no coincidence:
“Ristroph believes that Tesla, who also had a patent for an AC to DC electrical converter, conceived of the valvular conduit to do the same thing for fluid currents. AC electricity sees electrons constantly reverse their direction, but when converted to DC they effectively flow in a loop.”
A ring of Tesla’s valves arranged after Tesla’s electrical converter acted like a pump powered by the motions of water sloshing back and forth. A piston created the water movement.
“Imagine if you had those fluid pump systems basically take the vibration from the motor that’s there anyway, and have that circulate it. It has no moving parts. There’s nothing to break,” says Ristroph.
Interestingly, it’s not known if Nikola Tesla ever made and tested the valve himself. However, after a century, another of Tesla’s designs holds great promise.
See how Tesla’s valve works below from NightHawkInLight:
Sharks and a Nikola Tesla Invention
Strangely, Nikola Tesla and his inventions are in the news as other researchers found that shark’s intestines function much like Tesla’s one-way valve.
After a century of speculation of how sharks digest food, high-resolution, 3D scans have revealed much more.
Samantha Leigh, assistant professor at California State University Dominguez Hills, and fellow researchers developed a new way to see inside sharks.
“It’s high time that some modern technology was used to look at these really amazing spiral intestines of sharks,” said Leigh. “We developed a new method to digitally scan these tissues and now can look at the soft tissues in such great detail without having to slice into them.”
Essentially, the researchers utilized CT scanners similar to those at hospitals. Then, they obtained specimens from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles to scan. Thus, no dissection was necessary.
Similar to Tesla’s valve, the shark intestine design directs food through the gut. Gravity and the rhythmic contraction of the shark’s smooth muscle move the food downward, but the spiral shapes slow the movement.
Thanks to slow movement, sharks can hold food in their system longer and fully digest it while conserving energy. Consequently, they can go for long periods without eating when necessary.
Designs by Mother Nature and Nikola Tesla
Learning how the ocean’s top predators process food can give valuable insights into ocean life and the ecosystem.
Now, the scientists plan to make 3D models of the shark’s intestines for testing. Then, they plan to collaborate with engineers with possible uses for ” wastewater treatment or filtering microplastics out of the water column.”
Who knows what may result from combining the designs from Mother Nature and Nikola Tesla?
See what a shark’s intestines look like via UW (University of Washington):