Challenging the versatility of the Tesla turbine: working fluid variations and turbine performance
Tesla turbo-machinery offers a robust, easily manufactured, extremely versatile prime mover with inherent capabilities making it perhaps the best, if not the only, solution for certain niche applications. The goal of this thesis is not to optimize the performance of the Tesla turbine, but to compare its performance with various working fluids. Theoretical and experimental analyses of a turbine-generator assembly utilizing compressed air, saturated steam and water as the working fluids were performed and are presented in this work. A brief background and explanation of the technology is provided along with potential applications. A theoretical thermodynamic analysis is outlined, resulting in turbine and rotor efficiencies, power outputs and Reynolds numbers calculated for the turbine for various combinations of working fluids and inlet nozzles. The results indicate the turbine is capable of achieving a turbine efficiency of 31.17 ± 3.61% and an estimated rotor efficiency 95 ± 9.32%. These efficiencies are promising considering the numerous losses still present in the current design. Calculation of the Reynolds number provided some capability to determine the flow behavior and how that behavior impacts the performance and efficiency of the Tesla turbine. It was determined that turbulence in the flow is essential to achieving high power outputs and high efficiency. Although the efficiency, after peaking, begins to slightly taper off as the flow becomes increasingly turbulent, the power output maintains a steady linear increase.