Engineering details

Patents normally don't give many quantitative specifics, but Tesla's wireless power patent does give some about the big prototype power-transmission Tesla coil (which was, incidentally, used to conduct a demonstration before skeptical patent examiners). A 50,000-volt transformer charged a capacitor of .004 mfd., which discharged through a rotary gap that gave 5,000 breaks per second. The eight-foot diameter primary had just one turn of stout stranded cable. The secondary was 50 turns of heavily insulated No. 8 wire wound as a flat spiral. It vibrated at 230-250,000 cycles and produced 2 to 4 million volts. This coil evolved into the huge experimental magnifying transmitter

Tesla describes in his Colorado Springs notes. Housed in a specially built lab 110 feet square, the device used a 50,000 volt Westinghouse transformer to charge a capacitor that consisted of a galvanized tub full of salt water as an electrolyte, into which he placed large glass bottles, themselves containing salt water. The salt water in the tub was one plate of this capacitor, the salt water inside the bottles the other plate, and the bottle glass the dielectric. Various capacities were tried, incremental changes being made by connecting more or fewer bottles. A variable tuning coil of 20 turns was connected to the primary, which consisted of two turns of heavy insulated cable that ran around the base of the huge fence like wooden secondary framework. The secondary had 24 turns of No. 8 wire on a diameter of 51 feet Various extra coils were tried, the final version being 12 feet high, 8 feet in diameter, and having 100 turns of No. 8 wire.

The antenna was a 30-inch conductive ball adjustable for height on a 142-foot mast. The huge transmitter could vibrate from 45 to 150 kilocycles. Even with the big transformer, this bill of materials does not seem inaccessible to enterprising people, and the technology does not seem so abstruse, so it is no wonder that people have gotten together to build magnifying transmitters and experiment with wireless power without support from corporations or government.

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One such group was the People's Power Project in central Minnesota in the late 70's. This group, largely farmers, objected to high voltage power lines trespassing on their land and set out to build an alternative.

Limited by the sketchy information then available, the project was not successful. Another attempt, called

Project Tesla, is being set up in Colorado. Endowed with more precise calculations and more experienced personnel, Project Tesla will try to repeat Tesla's wireless-power experiment and verify his theory by taking measurements at various remote locations.

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