Magnifying Transmitters Wireless Power

In 1893 Tesla told a meeting of the National Electric Light Association that he believed it practical to disturb, by means of powerful machines, the electrostatic conditions of the earth, and thus transmit intelligible signals, and, perhaps, power. He said, It could not require a great amount of energy to produce a disturbance perceptible at a great distance, or even all over the surface of the earth. The ultimate powerful machine for these tasks is Tesla's magnifying transmitter.

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How it works

An extra coil gives the resonant boost of a Tesla coil secondary but has the advantage of being more independent in its movement. A secondary, being closely slaved to the primary, is inhibited somewhat by it, its oscillations slightly damped. The extra coil is able to swing more freely. Extra coils, writes Tesla, enable the obtainment of practically any EMF, the limits being so far remote that I would not hesitate to produce sparks of thousands of feet in this manner.

The engineering challenge of the magnifying transmitter, then, becomes one of containing and properly radiating its immense electrical activities, measured in the tens and even hundreds of thousands of horsepower, as Tesla put it. Containment and effective radiation of this power is the whole point of the design shown, for which Tesla applied for patent in 1902. The heavy primary is wound on top of the secondary at the base of the tower. The extra coil extends upward through a hooded connection to a conductive cylinder.

The antenna is a toroid, a donut-shaped geometry that allows for a maximum of surface area with a comparative minimum of electrical capacity. Since this is a high-frequency device, a relatively low capacity is desirable. To increase the area of the radiating surface, the outside of the toroid is covered with half-spherical metal plates. A subtlety of the design is that the conductive cylinder is of larger radius than the radius of curvature of these plates, since a tighter curve would allow escape of energy. The cylinder is polished to minimize losses through irregularities in the surface. At the center of the top surface sits a pointy plate that serves as a safety valve for overloads so the powerful discharge may dart out there and lose itself harmlessly in the air.

Tesla advises bringing the power up slowly and carefully so pressure does not build at some point below the antenna, in which case a ball of fire might break out and destroy the support or anything else in the way, an event that may take place with inconceivable violence. Current in the antenna could build to an incredible 4000 amperes.

Wireless power transmission via the magnifying transmitter was the ultimate development of the inventor who had earlier brought alternating-current power to the world with his poly phase system. The predecessor of A.C. was a direct-current system developed, manufactured, and marketed chiefly by Thomas Edison. Direct current was adequate for serving small areas but was unworkable for long distance transmission. By contrast, A.C. could be transmitted for long distances over lighter wires and its voltage could be stepped up for transmission and down for consumption by means of transformers. Tesla invented from scratch a new kind of motor (poly phase) that could utilize A.C., and he greatly evolved earlier concepts of dynamos to generate A.C. as well as transformers to step voltage up and down. Whereas Edison's D.C. would have been suitable for a society of small, autonomous communities, the evolving system of industrial rule wanted centralized power and needed A.C.'s long distance capability to serve huge sprawling populations.

George Westinghouse, an inventor (the air brake) who, like Edison, turned industrialist (having found that to profit from an invention one must undertake manufacturing and marketing as well) saw the promise in Tesla's poly phase inventions and formed an alliance with the young prodigy. Westinghouse paid Tesla one million dollars and contracted to pay a royalty of one dollar per horsepower for the poly phase inventions. Later Westinghouse was forced to renege on the royalty.

Together, Westinghouse and Tesla triumphed over Edison's D.C. system and installed the first A.C. power facilities, the most notable being the hydra plant at Niagara Falls. Tesla believed in hydropower. His ultimate energy-magnifying, wireless power system would have been hydro-based. The centralized A.C. electric power system we have today was forced into existence on a colossal scale by utility

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magnates of that era, the most prominent being Samuel Insull, who became infamous in some circles for his massive bilking of the investing public and famous in others for hammering together the electric power complex now in place. This complex has developed into a federally protected monopoly with greater capital wealth than any other industry in the U. S. In the order of energy sources used, Tesla's hydropower has been left well behind the burning of fossil fuels, a process that dumps 24 million tons of pollutants into the nation's air supply each year.

Hydropower even runs way behind the nukes in kilowatt-hours produced. So went another Tesla dream. Tesla was a celebrity in his poly phase heyday, but today his celebrity is as an underground cult figure known for his radically progressive energy-magnifying, free-energy, and wireless power inventions, which, of course, have no place in the established system.

Power by wire

Prior to his wireless power inventions, Tesla patented in 1897 a high frequency system that transmitted power by wire. The system used previously unheard of levels of electric potential. He notes that at these voltages, conventional power would destroy the equipment, but that his system not only contains this energy but is harmless to handle while in use. This system is not a circuit in the usual sense but a single wire without return. It employs the familiar Tesla coil configurations at both sending and receiving ends. The primary circuit (power source, capacitor, spark gap) is represented in the drawing by the generator symbol. The secondary coil is a flat spiral. An advantage in this coil design is that the voltage adjacent to the primary, where arcing across could occur, is at zero and soars to high values as the coil spirals inward. The same patent also shows a cone-shaped secondary in which the primary is at the base of the cone, which is at zero potential.

Wireless power

The drawing for Tesla's wireless power patent looks like the earlier power-by-wire patent except now spherical antennas replace the transmission lines, which are dropped out of the picture almost as if they were redundant. The ball antenna is peculiarly Tesla, as is the toroid, and you wonder why nothing like them have appeared since. In this 1900 patent, wireless power is not represented as an earth-resonant system. Here Tesla talks about transmission through elevated strata. The patent contains much discussion of how rarefied gases in the upper atmosphere became quite conductive when there is applied many hundred thousand or millions of volts. Balloons are suggested to send the antennas aloft. Appreciate that Tesla in this patent has invented nothing less than the principles of radio.

Tesla recognizes only a quantitative difference between sending radio signals and broadcasting electric power. Both involve sending and receiving stations tuned to one another by means of tesla coil circuits. Tesla's wireless power would be the ultimate centralized electric system, a capitalist dream, but for the fact that the technology is too simple. Just raising an antenna, planting a ground, and connecting simple Tesla coil circuitry in between could achieve reception of power.

Although Tesla himself patented a couple of electric meters for high frequencies, it would be all too easy for consumers to tune in for free, just as many today bootleg pay TV signals using illicit

equipment far more sophisticated. It is no wonder, then, that the electric power establishment didn't welcome this invention. This was one problem. Another was that the established electric power system would have to be relegated to another great pile of scrap, and maybe the established system of political power as well.

Tesla's announced dream was to use hydra sources where available and through wireless power broadcast that energy around the planet, thus liberating the world from poverty. Such a scheme would not be readily embraced by powers that sustain their rule by keeping populations poor and weak. Centralized control of energy, as well as other resources, is, of course, believed to be essential to civilized rule, at least as far as thinking on that subject has progressed in this era. Moreover, no multinational political system was in existence, or is now for that matter, that could implement a technology of such global implications. Tesla was blind to such considerations.

His commitment, his overriding priority as a technological purist, was to take machine possibilities to their logical conclusions. Today, if wireless power were seriously proposed, there would no doubt be at least one political problem that would not have arisen in Tesla's time: resistance from environmentalists. What would an environmental impact report have to say about biologic hazards? A Navy submarine communication system that uses extremely low frequency (ELF) waves, down to below 10 cycles, has been challenged by environmentalists, as have microwave and 60 cycle highvoltage transmission lines.

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 or o j o

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.

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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Earth resonance

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Among the appealing features of Colorado Springs for Tesla was the region's frequent and sensational electrical storms. For Tesla, lightning was a joyous phenomenon. Biographers report that, during storms back East, Tesla would throw open the windows of his New York lab and recline on a couch for the duration, muttering to himself ecstatically. In Colorado Springs he tuned in and tracked lightning storms using rudimentary radio receiving equipment. He thereby determined that lightning was a vibratory phenomenon, which set up standing waves bouncing within the earth at a frequency resonantly compatible with the earth's electrical capacity. This earth-resonant frequency, he reasoned, was the ideal frequency for wireless power transmission, and he tuned his ultimate magnifying transmitter accordingly.

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The literature contains various reports on exactly what this frequency is. Some say 150 kilocycles, which would be at the upper range of the Colorado Springs transmitter. Others give frequencies considerably lower, 11.78 cycles, 6.8 cycles, frequencies Tesla's transmitter may have achieved harmonically. With reinforcement from the earth resonance, the power would actually increase in the process of transmission.

In one memorable experiment with the Colorado Springs transmitter, Tesla shot from the antenna ball veritable lightning bolts of 135 feet, producing thunder heard 15 miles distant, and, in the process, pulled so many amperes that he burned out the municipal generator. In another experiment he lit up wirelessly, at a distance of 26 miles from the lab, a bank of 10,000 watts worth of incandescent bulbs. Two years after Colorado Springs, Tesla applied for patent for the far more refined magnifying transmitter shown at the opening of this chapter, a patent that was not granted until a dozen years later.

In this patent he no longer speaks of energy broadcast through the upper strata of the atmosphere but of a grounded resonant circuit. Tesla predicted that his magnifying transmitter would prove most important and valuable to future generations, that it would bring about an industrial revolution and make possible great humanitarian achievements. Instead, as we shall see, the magnifying transmitter became Tesla's Waterloo.

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