Nikola Tesla: biography, inventions, importance

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nikolaTesla was a Serbian-Croatian scientist who was known for his important discoveries in the field of electricity. His work was fundamental to improve the transmission of electricity, for example. He disputed the famous war of currents with Thomas Edison and won it. He died impoverished after his investments failed.

accessalso: Five things you should know about electricity

Summary about Nikola Tesla

  • Nikola Tesla was one of humanity's greatest scientists and made important discoveries in the field of electricity.

  • He became interested in electricity at a young age, influenced by a teacher who was conducting experiments with electricity in the classroom.

  • He started working at a company Thomas Edison in Paris in the 1880s.

  • He disputed with Thomas Edison which type of current would be adopted by North American electric companies, what became known as the war of currents.

  • He became known for his inventions, such as the engine by electromagnetic induction.

Nikola Tesla Biography

Tesla was undeniably

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one of the greatest scientists of all time, but its recognition was belated. Currently, he is known for his inventions and discoveries, fundamental for the evolution of telecommunications, transmission of electrical energy, etc. However, in his day, he was regarded as a eccentric genius that he had some health problems, like constant fainting, and even some probable psychological problems.

  • childhood and adolescence

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in the city of Smiljan, located in the Austrian Empire. Currently, this city is in Croatia, a country that emerged in 1991 with the break-up of Yugoslavia. Despite being born in Croatian territory, Tesla belonggo at one family ethnic of serbs.

his father, Milutin Tesla, was an Orthodox priest (religion very common among Serbs, while Croatians were Catholics, in general). His mother, DukeMandic, was also the daughter of an Orthodox priest. Tesla claimed that from his mother he had inherited one of his main abilities: the photographic memory.

Tesla also had four brothers, three sisters, Angelina, Milka and Marica, and a brother, named Dane. Tesla's early years of education took place in schools in Smiljan and Gospic, and secondary education (corresponding to High School) he took in Karlovac. Studies in Karlovac began in 1870 and lasted until 1873. By then, the Austrian Empire had already become the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It was during his studies at Karlovac that Tesla became interested in electricity, when one of his professors conducted small experiments. After completing his secondary education, Tesla decided to study engineering. His father wanted him to follow the priesthood, but allowed him to do engineering after his son was on the brink of death after contracting cholera.

Tesla studied engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic Institute in Graz, beginning in 1875. After studying for three years in the Engineering course, Tesla decided to abandon it and didn't get his degree. This deeply shook his relationship with his family.

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  • Professional career

In 1881, Tesla began work on a telephone company in Budapest, in Hungary, eventually being promoted to chief electrician. The following year, he moved to Paris, France, where he began working in Continental Edison Company, the company ofThomasEdison. He was hired as an engineer, and his skill soon caught the eye.

Two years later, Tesla was transferred to the United States on the recommendation of a former boss of his in Paris. He arrived in the United States in June 1884, going to work in the Edison Machine Works, in New York. He was tasked with improving 24 of the company's machines, and was promised a $50,000 bonus if he succeeded.

Tesla worked for six months at Edison Machine Works, and after he discovered that the company had no intention of paying him the promised bonus, he resigned. During this period, he worked 18 hours a day, and that (compulsively work) it was his practice all his life.

After resigning from Edison Machine Works, Tesla started his own company with the help of two investors, Robert Lane and Benjamin Vail. His company was called Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing, but it was short-lived. Founded in 1885, it lost its investors in 1886, and thus went bankrupt.

In 1887, Nikola Tesla invented an electric motor that operated by electromagnetic induction. As we shall see, this engine ran for alternating currents and proved to be simple, practical and easy to maintain. The following year, Tesla sold the patent of your invention to GeorgeWestinghouse, owner of Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company.

  • War of the Currents

Generator built by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse at Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company.
Generator built by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse at Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company.

The construction of the induction motor and the use of alternating electric current were projects that Tesla had in mind since he started working in Europe. At Edison's company he could not get support, and it was with George Westinghouse that he was able to put his project forward. Westinghouse bought the patent on Tesla's designs and even hired him as a consultant.

Westinghouse's company made use of alternating current, while Thomas Edison's company made use of direct current. This scenario opened the war of currents, a market dispute between the two companies for the type of electric current used by each of them to be adopted in the United States.

Alternating current, used and advocated by Tesla, increased the power of electrical transmission, and the system developed by him allowed the electrical energy produced to travel for long distances. The alternating power system used by Tesla obtained, in 1893, a contract for construction of a hydroelectric plant in Niagara Falls.

This plant was being built to supply electrical power to Buffalo, but it distributed electrical power to other locations such as Boston and Toronto, Canada. The inauguration and success of the plant in the falls made the alternating power system consolidated in the United States as a standard. This ended the war of currents.

Thomas Edison was defeated in this dispute with Nikola Tesla, but during the 1880s and 1890s he promoted a extensive campaign to stigmatize alternating electrical current. Thomas Edison sought to promote the idea that alternating current was more dangerous for humans and a risk to homes.

He performed public demonstrations of electrocution of animals using alternating energy, as a way of showing the dangers of this current. Dogs, cats and even an elephant were killed in these demonstrations. Thomas Edison also caused alternating current to be used in the execution of human beings in the electric chair. All this to damage the image of this type of chain in the market, but, as we have seen, this campaign failed.

  • Electric current video

  • Last years

After the success with the alternating current electric motor, Tesla moved on with other projects. In 1901, he started a project to make the transmission of electrical energy without wires. For this, he took out a loan of 150 thousand dollars and began his studies in a laboratory in New York.

His attempt failed, as he was unable to carry out the transmission of electrical energy without wires. However, scientists say that such a project allowed the creation of objects, such as the remote control, and that technologies, such as the internet wireless, were possible.

THE failure took Tesla à bankruptcy, and he had to leave the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where he lived for 22 years. From 1922 to 1934, he lived in hotels in New York, and in all of them he left bills to pay. In 1934, he went on to receive a pension of his former company, Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company.

Nikola Tesla died on January 7, 1943. He was in his room at the New Yorker hotel and the cause of death is believed to have been heart problems. Tesla never got married and had no children.

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Nikola Tesla's Inventions

Throughout his career, Tesla developed several important inventions, most of them related to alternating current electric motors, currently present in a large number of technologies. Let's take a look at Tesla's inventions.

  • AC motor

In 1887, Tesla developed an electric motor that operated by alternating current, based on the already known phenomenon of electromagnetic induction. The motor developed by Tesla it worked per polyphase currents, istthat is, alternating electric currents, lagged by a small time interval between their intensity peaks. For the time, this engine represented a great evolution compared to current electric motors, let's check out some of its advantages:

    • Exemption from using the switch: The commutator is a kind of rotating electric switch, responsible for reversing the direction of the electric current in direct current motors. The absence of the commutator made Tesla's engine safer.

    • Less maintenance: the friction between the parts of the motor invented by Tesla was less, so maintenance was less frequent.

    • Automatic start: the motor created by Tesla was fired instantly, without needing any initial impulse.

  • Tesla coil

The coil invented by Tesla was one of his most famous experiments. In 1889, Tesla discovered the experiments of Heinrich Hertz that proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Tesla decided to test Hertz's findings using coils connected to high-frequency alternating current generators.

  • How does the Tesla coil work?

The Tesla coil consists of a radio frequency oscillator — device that produces electric currents of frequencies that vary between 50 kHz and 1 Mhz —, in addition to a pair of coils. This oscillator is used to drive the pair of coils, called a double resonant transformer. THE oscillator is connected to a transformer (I), which raises the voltage of a sinusoidal electric current to values ​​between 5 kV and 30 kV.

When carried by a high frequency current, the primary winding (II) of the capacitor produces a variable flow of magnetic field in the secondary winding (III). In this winding, unlike conventional transformers, there is a capacitor (IV), periodically charged and discharged.

This loading and unloading is done through a spark gap (V), which is nothing more than a needle that produces sparks (sparks). These sparks are the result of the electric current that bounces between the spark plug tips, heating the air and exciting it so that it emits visible light. The discharge of the capacitor, in turn, only occurs when the electrical voltage between the spark gap tips rises above the breakdown voltage of the dielectric strength of the air.

When the charge on the capacitor dissipates through the spark gap, a circuit is closed between the capacitor and the primary coil of the pair of coils (this pair of coils is called a Tesla coil). This primary coil is usually made up of a few windings of thick wire or copper tubes, produced to support a large electrical current.

The primary coil (VI) induces the formation of an electric current in the secondary coil (VII). The secondary coil is made up of a large number of thinner wire windings ranging from hundreds to thousands of turns. The electrical currents formed in the primary and secondary coils are resonant, that is, they have the same frequency, this causes the loss of energy be minimal.

At the end of the secondary coil, the presence of a tip is common, which discharges the coil, producing high frequency sparks in the air. Optionally, a toroidal capacitor (shaped like a donut) is installed on top of the secondary coil. The low curvature of the torus prevents the leakage of electrical current into the air, producing more intense electrical discharges.

In his preliminary tests, Tesla arranged an iron core between two coils, but realized that the high frequency of the electromagnetic field would fuse this core, a factor that greatly limited the transfer of energy between a coil and other. To solve the problem, Tesla configured the coils to work without the presence of the ferrous core, leaving only air between them.

After a large number of adaptations, Tesla managed to develop his famous coil, capable of produce low-intensity, but high-voltage, high-frequency electrical currents, which leaked through the air through a spark gap installed in one of the coil terminals.

The coils created by Tesla were used in a large number of experiments and gave rise to a large number of technological applications that involved electrical lighting, production of X ray, radio and telegram transmitters and even medical equipment for electrotherapies or for the production of ultraviolet radiation.

By Daniel Neves Silva and Rafael Helerbrock 

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