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Building a Tesla Turbine from hard drive platters

Please note that I am not a Physicist or a machinist (yet). I have been interested in Nikola Tesla for some time, and I was looking for a project to gain some e perience in the machine shop. !y job is to provide "ect#re $emonstrations, so my goal was to prod#ce a teaching tool rather than an efficient engine. %or backgro#nd material, &ikipedia has several good review articles abo#t Nikola Tesla, the Tesla T#rbine, the 'o#ndary "ayer (ffect, and )eynolds N#mber.

*t first I tried #sing +$s beca#se of their large s#rface areas, b#t they didn,t hold #p too well #nder the milling machine. I also had a stack of platters from old and defective hard drives, b#t I didn,t know if the smaller diameter disks wo#ld work as well. -ne problem I ran into is that some newer hard drives #se ceramic disks instead of metal. They,re still coated with metal, b#t they,re thinner and a co#ple platters shattered when I tried to machine them.

!y original plan for the center hole pattern had small holes (for threaded rods and washers for spacers), as well as large holes (for air vents).

The second set of platters had radial arcs c#t in them s#ch that the inside edge of the radial c#to#t is close to the o#tside diameter of the spacers that I removed from the hard drive assemblies.

The hard drive platters were stacked and clamped to a rotary table between two sheets of scrap al#mini#m b#t the top disk (above pict#re) still took some e tra damage. The rest of the platters look m#ch better tho#gh (see the complete rotor assembly below).

I decided to be la/y and #se the spacers that were between the platters in the original hard drive assemblies rather than machine my own. This increased distance (ro#ghly .012 instead of .0342) may lead to t#rblent flow rather than laminar flow b#t will be close eno#gh for this project.

&ith the t#rbine platters and spacers complete, I t#rned a shaft from ro#nd stock. The inside diameter of both the platters and spacers is .562 which is the diameter of the thick section in the middle. I left the whole length at .562 #ntil I knew the width of the chamber and the inside diameter of the bearings. The wide part is 3.772 long which fits inside the 42 thick acrylic chamber.

The collars are essentially wider versions of the platter spacers. The inside diameter has to fit on the shaft, b#t they can,t be too tall so they block the ventilation holes in the disks. *lso, they can,t be too wide or they will take #p too m#ch hori/ontal space inside the chamber. I made each collar .82 which is eno#gh space for a 930:84 set screw to hold them (and everything else) in place.


The bearings and brass fittings were the only new parts in this project (everything else was re#sed from scrap materials). These metric bearings were p#lled from a bo of old and #sed bearings and I had to machine the shaft and side panels to fit them.

Rotor Assembly
There are eleven platters and ten spacers held together by the two collars. The hard drive platters are hard to keep clean so I wore gloves when assembling the rotor. There sho#ld be a fair amo#nt of press#re between the two collars or the disks will rotate abo#t the shaft instead of with it.

The main chamber is an acrylic block machined down to ;.712 ;.712 42. The s<#are block was mo#nted in a ;:jaw lathe ch#ck, drilled, and then bored o#t. The final c#to#t is abo#t .072 larger than the disks. The air inlet is taped for a 3=;2 pipe thread and all of the other holes are taped for 3=;:40 socket head cap screws.

Side Panels
The side panels are .;72 thick acrylic and have #ntaped .412 holes for alignment to the main chamber. The center hole is .>2 with a .4602 deep co#nterbore for the bearing. The bearings are metric so I #sed the ;:jaw ch#ck and boring bar again to try for a press fit into the side panel. ?owever, I made the co#nterbore a few tho#sandths too big which allows the bearing to rotate in the side panel.

!any other Tesla T#rbines that I,ve seen online have larger ventilation holes in the sides. I was going to c#t the same radial pattern from the disks in the side panels, b#t I decided that wasn,t necessary after a trial r#n with j#st the . >2 hole.


The two brass fi t#res are a 1=3> : ;1 t#be #nion (pict#re 1), and a 3=; t#be, 3=; pipe hose barb (pict#re >).

Complete Turbine

CAD File

The original *#to+*$ .dwg file is available