100-Year-Old Tesla Valve Is Cool But Not Well Suited For Industry

May 20, 2021

Over the past year I’ve learned way more than I thought I would about check valves. It started when we had a torrential downpour in May 2020 and our house flooded. . . from the downstairs toilet. . . and all the neighborhood “business” landed in our family room.

In the 70s, when our house was built, they didn’t put in check valves for the sanitary sewers and for a long time it was frowned upon to do so for reasons unknown to me. Needless to say, a video of the offensive waters in my house convinced city planners that it was necessary for us to install one to ensure we never had to deal with the doo doo again.

Right around the same time I interviewed Brian Strait, business development and marketing manager at Check-All Valve Mfg. Co. I became much better versed in valves and even impressed the contractor who was installing the check valve in our front yard with my newly learned lingo and knowledge. (See “Not All Check Valves Go With The Flow.”)

A few days ago (exactly one year after our flood), a co-worker sent me a link to a CNET article talking about a macrofluidic valve that was patented in 1920 by Nikola Tesla and recently was replicated by researchers.

According to the CNET article, the valve “is a sort of odd-shaped conduit for fluids in which a main channel is interspersed with a series of diverting teardrop-shaped loops. The loops are oriented in such a way that fluids easily flow through in one direction, but when reversed, the flow is almost totally blocked.”

Wanting to understand it better, I reached out to Strait to get his thoughts.

“It appears to do what it was invented to do, which is to reduce reverse flow without moving parts,” says Strait. “From my observations, this valve would work best in lower flow and pressure conditions. The more you increase the flow and pressure in the opposite direction, the less effective the valve would be. Also, the more divergence paths the valve has the more effective it will be; therefore, requiring a fair amount of space (length of the valve) in the piping system. Oftentimes, space is a valuable commodity in a piping system and giving up more space for a flow-control device is less desirable.”

Check out the short video below, which explains the physics of the converging and diverging flow, the introduction of obstacles and fluid mechanics. It also cements the point Strait makes -- what it makes up for in no moving parts it loses in length.

It’s OK, Nikola -- you nailed so many other inventions including the remote control, neon and fluorescent lights, wireless transmission, computers, smartphones, laser beams, x-rays, robotics and, of course, alternating current -- the basis of our present-day electrical system.

Traci Purdum is a fan of Tesla -- the man and the rock group. She is also a fan of check valves. 

About the Author

Traci Purdum | Editor-in-Chief

Traci Purdum, an award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering manufacturing and management issues, is a graduate of the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kent, Ohio, and an alumnus of the Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

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