Tesla Strikes Again!

I’ve been researching the writings, patents and life of the Croatian-American inventor and electric engineer Nikola Tesla for over 25 years. Last month Engadget carried a story about a remarkable photo-etched device for separating blood cells from plasma (http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/21/scientists-separate-plasma-from-blood-with-working-biochip/).  The device is called a Self-Powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System (SIMBAS), and was developed by scientists at UC Berkeley, Dublin City University in Ireland and Universidad de Valparaíso.  Here’s the device:

I took a look at the device and thought “That’s a fluid diode!”  It’s a mechanical analog for electrical diodes. It’s designed to move fluid in one direction.  The first patent for a fluid diode was made by Nikola Tesla for his Valvular Conduit (US Patent Number 1,329,559, Granted February 1920).   Tesla was looking at designing and developing a durable check valve to couple with his boundary-layer turbine.  There are no moving parts. The valvular conduit was 45 or 50 years ahead of its time, as the science of fluidics really came into development during the space race in the 1960’s. Of course, Tesla had no idea the device would have bio-medical applications, but the SIMBAS device clearly shows Tesla heritage.  What an amazing legacy he has left us.

Here’s a publication on the SIMBAS system: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2011/lc/c0lc00403k.

Also this – http://www.e-biosys.org/publications/30%20-%20Hydrodynamic%20blood%20plasma%20separation%20in%20microfluidic%20channels.pdf



5 Responses to “Tesla Strikes Again!”

  1. The article doesn’t say whether the scientists applied for a patent for this device–if they did, would the patent office declare it a fluid diode and not award a patent? Great insight, Barry, and about the work of a monster scientist!

    • Patents of course do not constitute only design, but application and claims of novelty. If I had developed the patent for this device I might have claimed the valvular conduit as “prior art”, but it’s a bit like patenting an MG as a car. The are so many fluid diode designs and uses. If you perform a patent search you’ll notice many applications and awards from the 1960’s. So the concept is old, but the application for medical usage if relatively new. I remember reading in the 90’s about fluid diodes being used as capillary-level implants.

      Sent from Barry’s iPhone 4

  2. Great overview and I’d love to read more on both subjects. By the way may I suggest Funny or Die’s Drunk History take on Telsa. While not all that reliable it does cement the concept that Edison was a jerk.

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  3. I have created a video of a Tesla valvular conduit machined from aluminium. It can be found here…. ://youtu.be/XhJtSqLz88Q

    It’s mesmerising to watch this working. I’ve noted a 20% difference in pressure drop from one side to another. I’d love to hear from anyone else interested in seeing this or who has tested one, or who would like to obtain cad data to produce their own through rapid prototyping.

    • Nice work on the valvular conduit. I worked up model with colleague using computational fluid dynamic modeling. Please provide email and I will send you the paper. Tesla originally envisioned using the conduit for pulsed systems (his reciprocating engine). I have seen one historical reference to it being used on a gas combustion system for his pitch less blade turbine. I have wondered how the conduit would work for more viscous fluids (e.g. Lubricants or petroleum oils). Nice work.

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